Johnston, Wilson Counties Join Quarantine Area For Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer. Photo courtesy USDA
Emerald Ash Borer. Photo courtesy USDA

Five more counties have come under quarantine rules restricting the movement of hardwood firewood, ash nursery stock and other ash materials following the discovery of more trees infested with emerald ash borers (EAB). The addition of Durham, Graham, Johnston, Orange and Wilson counties brings the total number of counties under quarantine to 12. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler signed an emergency quarantine order allowing the expansion.

Staff with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found insects in Wilson County close to Contentnea Creek and in several infested trees in the northeastern part of Orange County. No insects were found in Johnston County, but distinctive galleries, or serpentine tunnels under the bark, in trees along the Little River indicate the presence of EAB. No evidence of EAB has been found yet in Durham County, but the close proximity to the county line of finds in neighboring counties has led officials to quarantine that county as well. A U.S. Forest Service employee found emerald ash borers in a trap in Graham County, marking the first find in the Western part of the state.

“This is a devastating pest to ash trees, eventually killing the trees where the insects are found,” Troxler said. “We are continuing to monitor other counties for this highly destructive pest through trapping and visual assessment of trees. We will be pulling traps in early August and it is possible we will find sites in more counties when we do. We ask the public not to disturb the purple, triangle-shaped traps if they see them.”

The beetle was first detected in the United States in Michigan in 2002. It is responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees across the country.

Under the state quarantine, all hardwood firewood and plants and plant parts of the ash tree — including living, dead, cut or fallen, green lumber, stumps, roots, branches and composted and uncomposted chips — cannot be moved outside the county. Only firewood that has been treated by an approved U.S. Department of Agriculture method, such as treating firewood in an approved kiln, can be moved outside the quarantine area.

The Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service are working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Symptoms of emerald ash borer in ash trees include a general decline in the appearance of the tree, such as thinning from the top down and loss of leaves. Clumps of shoots, also known as epicormic sprouts, emerging from the trunk of the tree and increased woodpecker activity are other symptoms. The emerald ash borer is not the only pest that can cause these.

Emerald ash borers overwinter as larvae. The adult beetle is one-fourth to a half-inch long and is slender and metallic green. When the adults emerge from a tree, they leave behind a D-shaped exit hole. The larvae can also create serpentine tunneling marks, known as feeding galleries, which are found under the bark of the infested trees.

Home and landowners are encouraged to report any symptomatic activity in ash trees to the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333 or by email at The pest can affect any of the four types of ash trees grown in the state.