Georgia’s 24 million acres of forestland provide us with many benefits. With today’s global markets, our forests are up against an ever-growing array of invasive plants, insects and diseases. GFC’s Forest Health Program is a leader in the southeast in providing information about these possible threats to our forests. Foresters and specialists are available to assist landowners with questions about forest health issues on their property and about how to manage for healthy, resilient forests.
GFC’s Forest Health Program staff conducts and oversees a variety of pest surveys to monitor and detect the presence of insects, diseases, and invasive plants that can harm Georgia’s forests; monitors damage caused by disaster events such as wildfire, hurricanes, and tornadoes that can affect forest health; provides support for issues that are not easily diagnosed or occurring on a regional scale; and, offers technical assistance and training to landowners and land managers in order to minimize the impact of regional issues such as periodic pine bark beetle outbreaks, heterobasidion root disease, and non-native exotics such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, gypsy moth, and the redbay ambrosia beetle/laurel wilt disease.
Common concerns include:
Diseases (and Helpful Resources)
Details about tree diseases common to Georgia:
- Heterobasidion Root Disease (formerly Annosum Root Disease) – Many Georgia landowners with property along, or south of, the fall line (running from Augusta to Columbus) are noticing dead and dying trees in their pine stands. First impressions are that these stands are infested with pine bark beetles and this is a bark beetle problem. Further inspection of these stands reveals they have a more serious problem called Heterobasidion Root Disease. Learn more about Heterobasidion Root Disease.
- Laurel Wilt Disease – Laurel wilt disease is a deadly vascular disease of plants in the laurel family (Lauraceae). It is caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola and vectored by the redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, apparently introduced from Asia in solid wood packing material into the Port of Savannah. Since 2003, laurel wilt has caused massive mortality of redbay (Persea borbonia) trees in the coastal plains of the southeastern region. Learn more about laurel wilt disease.
- Sudden Oak Death – Sudden Oak Death (SOD) was first reported in 1995 in central coastal California. Since then, tens of thousands of tanoaks (Lithocarpus densiflorus), coast live oaks (Quercus agrifolia), and California black oaks (Quercus kelloggii) have been killed by the fungus, Phytophthora ramorum. On these hosts, the fungus causes a bleeding canker on the main stem of the tree which grows over a period of several years until it girdles the tree. This effectively eliminates the tree’s ability to move adequate amounts of water from the roots to the crown. Learn more about Sudden Oak Death.
- Thousand Cankers Disease – Learn more about Thousand Cankers Disease.
Invasive Plants (and Helpful Resources)
Invasive species have no native enemies to limit reproduction and spread. They displace native species and are harmful to trees and other plants. The twelve most harmful invasive plants in Georgia are known as the Dirty Dozen. They include cogongrass, Chinese privet and Japanese climbing fern.
The Invasive Plant Control Program (IPCP) is a forestry program administered by GFC and funded by the U.S. Forest Service. Forestry practices covered include the use of herbicides (or a combination of mechanical and herbicide treatments) to eradicate nonnative, invasive plants.
Join the cogongrass eradication team in Georgia and be a part of protecting our state’s forest and wildlife habitat.
Invasive Plants Resources
- Cogongrass County Density Map (2018)
- Cogongrass Eradication Agreement
- Cogongrass Eradication Strategies
- Cogongrass in Georgia
- Cogongrass in Georgia – Spring Update (2018)
- Cogongrass in Georgia – Winter Update (2018)
- Cogongrass in Georgia – Winter Update (2019)
- Cogongrass in Georgia PSA
- Cogongrass Percent Inactive Map (2018)
- Dirty Dozen List – Nonnative Invasive Plants (2019)
- Georgia Cogongrass State Map (2018)
- Georgia Cogongrass Update (2018)
- Georgia Invasive Species Task Force
- Identifying Cogongrass (Field Guide)
- Invasive Climbing Fern Fact Sheet
- Invasive Plants of Georgia Forests
- Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests
Insects (and Helpful Resources)
Details about insects that can harm trees:
- Emerald Ash Borer – The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an exotic insect that belongs to a group of metallic wood-boring beetles. Unlike our native beetles that kill weakened trees as part of the natural nutrient recycling process, emerald ash borers kill vigorously growing and weakened ash trees. It is not native to the United States, but EAB is now found in 35 states and five Canadian provinces and has already killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. It was first detected in Georgia in 2013. Learn more about the Emerald Ash Borer.
- Gypsy Moth – The gypsy moth is a serious forest pest capable of causing severe damage to hardwood trees, especially oaks. This damage is inflicted as the gypsy moth larvae defoliate entire stands of trees. In cooperation with the USDA, Georgia deploys 3500+ traps per year to detect the presence of the moth. There are no known infestations currently in Georgia, although the threat is always present. Learn more about the Gypsy Moth.
- Hemlock Wooly Adelgid – Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect native to Japan. This aphid-like insect threatens hemlock trees in the eastern U.S. and has the ability to alter landscapes that include hemlock trees. Soil injectors are provided by GFC to aid those interested in treating their own trees. GFC also provides a list of vendors who provide insecticide for HWA. Learn more about Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.
- Redbay Ambrosia Beetle – The Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) trapping program helps detect exotic wood boring beetles entering our state. The trapping in Georgia for 2007 detected a new introduction of the camphor shot beetle, an exotic ambrosia beetle from Asia.
- Pine Bark Beetles – Pine bark beetles are insects that normally attack stressed and dying pine trees, and usually do not infest trees that are otherwise healthy and vigorous. They are attracted to the odor produced by wind-thrown trees and trees damaged or killed by nature or man. Living pine trees are infested when stressed by: drought, age, tree competition in overcrowded stands, disease, root rot, fire, hail, lightning, or other insects.
- Sirex Woodwasp – A non-native woodwasp, Sirex noctilio likely entered a port via solid wood packing material in cargo. This insect is native to Europe and Asia, but has now been introduced into every continent, and has the potential to kill many species of pines including several of our native species. In Georgia, species of pines could be impacted including several of tremendous commercial importance: Loblolly, Shortleaf, and Slash. Trapping surveys are taking place in several southeastern states, including Georgia, but no Sirex noctilio has been detected to date. Learn more about Sirex Woodwasp.
- Hardwood Defoliating Caterpillars – Many insects found on the foliage of hardwood trees are “host-specific;” that is, they feed only on certain host species’ foliage. Others are considered general feeders, preferring a variety of meal types. Outbreaks of defoliating insects can be quite extensive and may last for several years. Learn more about hardwood defoliating caterpillar.
Moving Firewood (and Helpful Resources)
Do not transport firewood.
Transporting firewood between counties or states is a risk since invasives like to “hitch a ride” on wood. Moving firewood has been linked to the spread of destructive, non-native insects and diseases to forest ecosystems. While these pests can’t move far on their own, they can travel hundreds of miles when people move firewood, logs, chips, and mulch. Forest pests can kill our native trees and be very expensive, if not impossible, to control.
No wood is safe.
Many species of hardwood and pine trees serve as potential hosts for these destructive pests, so no firewood is considered safe to be moved long distances. Non-native organisms can wreak havoc on the environment. They are often resistant to natural controls and can spread unchecked, resulting in much greater harm to our forests than is experienced with native pests.Tiny, non-native insects and their larvae, and even microscopic fungus spores can hide in firewood that is transported by visitors into campsites and parks. They can fall unnoticed to the ground on a small chip of bark, or washed off the firewood from a sudden rainstorm.
What should campers do?
To combat the threat and spread of non-native pests and diseases, campers visiting Georgia are asked to leave their firewood at home and purchase local wood. If wood has been inadvertently brought into camp, it should be burned on-site or turned over to park officials.
Moving Firewood Resources
Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters disrupt forest health. The damage they cause makes trees vulnerable to pests and disease.
Forests with too many trees per acre or too many over-mature trees are inefficient and not as healthy as they could be. GFC provides education and tools to help landowners manage and protect their forests.
Learn more about proper forest management planning.
Urban trees need special care because of their proximity to non-permeable surfaces and foot traffic. They need adequate root growth zones to remain healthy. Foresters may use tools such as augers to aerate those zones and stimulate growth. Learn more about managing trees in an urban setting.
Alerts & Updates
|EAB – Destructive Tree Pest Detected in Georgia (2013)||An invasive insect responsible for the death or decline of tens of millions of ash trees in 20 states has been detected in Georgia for the first time.|
|FAQs About EAB||Answers to common questions about Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) in Georgia.|
|Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Management in Georgia (2019)||Guidelines for addressing infestation of hemlock woolly adelgid pests.|
|Ips Engraver Beetle Outbreak (2016)||Ips engraver beetles continue to heavily infest drought-stressed trees in northern and central Georgia.|
|Ips Engraver Beetle Outbreak Update (2017)||Ips engraver beetles continue to heavily infest drought-stressed trees in northern and central Georgia.|
|Longleaf Pine Mortality – Rhizoctonia Blight (2010)||Rhizoctonia blight is typically published as a fungal disease pathogen causing blight or mortality in seedling stock of pine nursery beds.|
|New Ambrosia Beetle Detected (2010 Update)||The Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) trapping program helps detect exotic wood boring beetles entering our state. The trapping in Georgia for 2007 detected a new introduction of the camphor shot beetle, an exotic ambrosia beetle from Asia.|
|Southern Pine Beetle Outbreak (2017)||Overview data and information for the southern pine beetle.|
|Thousand Cankers Disease (2010 Update)||Currently, there are no reliable means for controlling Thousand Cankers Disease.|
|Wildfire Damage Assessment – West Mims Fire (2017)||As of May 31, 2017 the West Mims Fire had consumed 145,315 acres (113,170 acres of federally owned land and 32,145 acres on private and industrial property).|