N.C. Forest Service using wasps to fight emerald ash borer

The N.C. Forest Service is enlisting a small, stingless wasp in its battle with the invasive emerald ash borer.

On Thursday, Dr. Kelly Oten will release a species of parasitoid wasp that can kill emerald ash borer larvae. The wasp lays eggs inside the borer larvae, and as the young wasps develop, they kill the ash borer larvae.

The release will take place in three locations in Granville County: four miles northwest of Oak Hill, four miles northwest of Townsville near Kerr Reservoir, and one mile north of Stovall.

“The wasps are from China, where EAB originated, and they target this beetle specifically,” said Oten, forest health specialist with the Forest Service. “The wasps are being reared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a laboratory in Brighton, Mich., and have been released for biocontrol of EAB in 16 of the 21 states where the borer has been found.”

Releases of these wasps are conducted under specific USDA guidelines, Oten said. The release is being done in coordination with both private and public entities that have forest resources affected by EAB.

Emerald ash borer is a destructive wood-boring insect that attacks ash trees, including green ash, white ash and several horticultural varieties of ash. The insect kills healthy trees after it bores beneath their bark and disrupts their vascular tissues. The emerald ash borer is not native to the United States and was first found in Michigan in 2002. It has spread to 21 states and has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the United States.

The Plant Industry Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services established an EAB quarantine covering Granville, Person, Vance and Warren counties following detection of the pest this year. This means that ash trees, the ash borers and any hardwood firewood cannot be moved out of a quarantined county into a non-quarantined county. Firewood refers to wood that is cut to less than 4 feet in length.

The quarantine was established to prevent the spread of EAB to other, non-infested parts of the state.


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