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August, 2008

Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth Infest Virginia

The tourism slogan "Virginia Is For Lovers" has apparently reached those who appreciate Virginia's forests - the emerald ash borer and the gypsy moth.

Image of an Emerald Ash Borer.On July 7, 2008, an infestation of the emerald ash borer was discovered in dying ash trees by a Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) employee in a residential development in Herndon, Va., near the Dulles Access Road.  Two days later, another infestation was discovered on the other side of Fairfax County in Springfield, just west of I-95. Both infestations appear to have begun some years ago, indicating that the wood-boring insects, which have a one-year life cycle, have likely spread to many other areas. Eradication measures for this insect pest will, therefore, be very difficult to implement.

Officials from the Fairfax County Forest Pest Program, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), VDOF, and many others, are actively searching for more evidence of infestation in Fairfax and adjacent counties. VDACS has issued a quarantine that prevents all ash material from leaving Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier and Arlington counties.

The emerald ash borer is a highly destructive invasive species that has already killed millions of ash trees in Michigan and Ohio and may, ultimately, cost billions of dollars in tree removal and replacement costs. While it spreads at the rate of about two miles per year on its own, this wood-infesting beetle can be moved great distances by human transport of infested wood products, particularly firewood. Firewood for sale in Virginia is brought in from many states, and many out-of-state travelers bring firewood with them to go camping throughout Virginia's state and federal lands. Most new infestations have been located either near campgrounds or adjacent to major interstate corridors.

All species of ash trees of all ages, sizes and relative health are vulnerable to the emerald ash borer. The insect is usually very difficult to detect because ash trees typically don't show any obvious signs of infestation until one year or more after the insect has attacked the tree. By then, the insects will have moved on to attack other trees.

The only control measure available is to cut and chip infested trees. An effective systemic insecticide for individual tree protection has recently been approved and may be widely available within a year, but this will be very expensive and not practical for halting the progress of the insect. It is highly likely this pest will eventually become established across Virginia, although government officials, pest specialists and arborists will work together to limit and/or slow its eventual spread.

Gypsy Moth Defoliation Increases 46 Percent in Virginia

Photo of a female gypsy moth and egg cases on the trunk of an oak tree.Officials with the VDOF say that the gypsy moth has returned this year, defoliating 112,340 acres of forest across the Commonwealth - an increase of almost 39,000 acres over last year's total.  Nearly 70,000 acres of defoliation occurred across the George Washington - Jefferson National Forest close to the West Virginia state line. An additional 11,750 acres affected Shenandoah National Park.

The most heavily impacted area was the GW National Forest in Augusta County extending into southern Rockingham County, which, combined, saw almost 43,000 acres of heavy defoliation - an area covering approximately 30 square miles. Another heavily impacted area for the third year in a row was northwestern Giles County, where more than 15,000 acres of forest was defoliated, most of that being in the Jefferson National Forest.

While oak trees are not in danger of disappearing from forests in Virginia, over time the gypsy moth will contribute to a reduction of oak populations in these forests.

Gypsy moths were introduced into the United States via Massachusetts in 1869 and have been slowly spreading southward ever since. The first defoliation in northern Virginia was recorded in 1984 and the moths continue to spread slowly southwestward.

Specialty Forestry Equipment for Smaller Forest Parcels

A series of live, in-woods activities on the Matthews State Forest in Galax will showcase some of the equipment available for use on smaller forested tracts.  With forest land throughout Virginia being divided into smaller tracts, specialty equipment is often required to properly manage them.

In response to the changing forest management needs for smaller parcels, forest management equipment is evolving to become smaller and more readily transportable.  This equipment may be more socially acceptable in or around residential settings, and may provide an opportunity to manage forests in the growing wildland-urban interface against a backdrop of higher fuel prices and a scarce supply of labor.

Live, in-woods activities on September 12th will highlight forestry equipment for the changing forest.  Participants will see how, even on small forest parcels, a variety of forestry equipment can be used for timber harvesting, improving timber stands, clearing brush, invasive species and/or slash, as well as for processing forest products on-site.

If you are a forest landowner or forest service provider interested in attending this event, please email David Richert or call him at 276.228.2879.