UACES Facebook From observation to confirmation: One county’s story of how one invasive species was spotted, tracked
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From observation to confirmation: One county’s story of how an invasive species was spotted, tracked

By Mary Hightower

U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Emerald Ash Borer first confirmed in Arkansas in 2014
  • Quarantine zone intended to create buffer and protect other counties in state 

(747 words)
(Newsrooms with art: Downloadable ASPB quarantine map available at )

HOPE, Ark. – Confirming the presence of an invasive pest can sometimes start with a newspaper article and a phone call.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas State Plant Board announced that the emerald ash borer had been confirmed in two more counties – Hempstead and Lafayette – bringing to 14 the number of counties in Arkansas with the tiny green beetle.  

Image of Fact sheet about Emerald Ash Borer
Image of a fact sheet about the Emerald Ash Borer in Arkansas. 

In Hempstead County, the process of confirming the beetles’ presence began with a phone call to Steve Sheets, County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The landowner said told Sheets he’d read about the ash borer more than a year ago and thought there might be a link between the borer and problems with a couple of his ash trees.

“He’d seen all of the press-related material way back when emerald ash borer was first confirmed in Arkansas,” Sheets said. “He noticed one of his ash trees was dying or already dead. I went out and looked at it and another one not far away that also looked dead.”

Sheets said he spotted D-shaped holes in the bark and after knocking a piece of bark off, he saw “it was tunneled out everywhere.” Both the holes and tunnels are classic symptoms of an emerald ash borer infestation. He took some bark and rushed over to the Southwest Research and Extension Center in Hope to show the samples to Extension Forester Jon Barry.

Sheets “walked into my office and asked, ‘is this what I think it is?’,” Barry said. “I said ‘yup’.”

Barry said he and Sheets immediately went back to the landowner’s home and looked at the trees. That visit sparked a round of phone calls with Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center; the Arkansas State Plant Board and Mohammad Bataineh, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Monticello who counts invasive species as among his research interests.

About a week later, extension and research personnel, along with representatives from the Arkansas Forestry Commission, all visited the site to take a close look at the trees.

“We cut one down and took samples. Mohammad cut some bolts to raise some ash borers in his lab and we peeled bark back and collected larvae to send to APHIS – the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the federal Agriculture Department – for testing,” Barry said.

The lab needed a second set of larval samples to positively identify the pest.  

“Being able to ID the symptoms is a good first step,” Barry said. “But APHIS and the State Plant Board need to be 100 percent sure, since they are regulatory agencies.

“We do have some similar bugs that are native to the U.S.,” he said. “You want the actual larva to be looked at by someone who knows and is trained to identify emerald ash borer and make that positive ID.”

Knowledgeable homeowners and their county extension agents are instrumental in helping spot and track the movement of this and other invasives, Barry said. Emerald ash borers have been blamed in the deaths of tens of millions of trees since being first found in Michigan in 2002.

In Arkansas, the borer has known to be in Bradley, Calhoun, Clark, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas, Hempstead, Hot Spring, Lafayette, Nevada, Ouachita, Randolph, Saline, and Union.  


An EAB quarantine was established in September 2014 and expanded in October 2016 by the Arkansas State Plant Board. The 33-county quarantine encompasses counties with confirmed EAB sites, as well as buffer counties around those areas. Lafayette and Hempstead County were already inside currently quarantined areas as buffer counties. This change in total confirmed sites of EAB will not affect the size of the quarantined area; the current EAB quarantine will remain the same. (For information about the quarantine, visit the State Plant Board site at

Under the quarantine, it is illegal to transport certain items from within the quarantine zones to areas outside the zones. Quarantined items include firewood of any hardwood species, as well as ash tree products including:

  • Nursery stock.
  • Green lumber with bark attached.
  • Living, dead, cut or fallen logs.
  • Pulpwood, stumps, roots, branches.
  • Mulch and composted or uncomposted chips greater than 1 inch in diameter.

Signs of infestation include:

  • Multiple jagged holes excavated by woodpeckers feeding on ash borer larvae.
  • Distinctive D-shaped exit holes left by emerging adult beetles. 
  • Canopy dieback from top of tree.
  • Sprouts arising from the base of the tree.
  • Larval tunnels or galleries immediately under the bark of dying ash trees.

For more information about the emerald ash borer, visit or A fact sheet about the borer may be found at: “Emerald Ash Borer: A potential pest of ash trees in Arkansas”, downloadable at To learn more about treatment options for homeowners who suspect they may have an emerald ash borer infestation, contact your county extension agent, or visit

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. 

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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