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Strain Urges Public Not to Move Firewood

Laurel Wilt Disease and the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle Confirmed in North Louisiana

October 10, 2014

Baton Rouge, La. (October 10, 2014) – The Redbay Ambrosia beetle and the tree killing fungus it transmits, Laurel wilt, are now confirmed in Union Parish, La. Laurel wilt, also called Laurel wilt disease, is a vascular disease of trees caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) was notified of dying Sassafras trees on a private landowner’s property in August.  LDAF, members of USDA U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assessed the property near Bernice, La.

Funnel traps baited with beetle attractants were installed at the site and tree tissue samples were collected and sent off for analysis.  Beetle specimens from the traps were collected and confirmed as the Redbay Ambrosia beetle.  Officials also confirmed the disease as Laurel wilt disease.

The Redbay Ambrosia beetle is a non-native pest that attacks the Laurel family of trees, which include the Red Bay, Sassafras, Spicebush and Camphor trees. The beetle is believed to have been introduced to the U.S. through solid wood packing material imported from Southeast Asia.  The beetle is very small, about 2 mm in length, and dark brown to black in color.  The beetles feed on the fungus that is associated with Laurel wilt disease.

Laurel wilt disease is spread two ways:

  • Through the beetle’s natural reproduction and migration.
  • Through the sale and transport of beetle infested wood such as logging and firewood.

“The message we’re trying to get out to people is to buy or obtain firewood in the same regional area where they plan to use it. A lot of forest pests can travel long distances hidden in firewood. It is best to dispose of infected wood by cutting, chipping or burning it on site through prescribed burning,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.

Symptoms of Laurel wilt disease are dieback and drooping foliage with a reddish or purplish discoloration in the crown of the tree.  Removal of tree bark reveals a black discoloration in the outer sapwood. Evidence of the ambrosia beetle can be seen in the tree stem.  The beetles bore into the wood and symptoms gradually progress until the tree dies.

Report Red Bay and Sassafras tree deaths in your area to your local LDAF office or call (225) 925-4500.