Foresters and Forest Health Specialists are available to assist landowners with any questions about forest health issues or about how to manage for healthy, resilient forests. Georgia’s 24 million acres of forestland provide many benefits, but the global economy brings a growing challenge with new non-native insects, invasive plants, and diseases. Our Forest Health Program assists landowners in providing information about new and present dangers to our forests.
The Forest Health Program conducts surveys to monitor and detect the presence of insects, diseases, and invasive plants that harm Georgia’s forests. Basically, anything that harms the health of the forests in Georgia is identified before it becomes a threat.
Regional disasters such as wildfire, hurricane, tornado, ice storm, and insect outbreaks are assessed by the Forest Health Programs to provide guidance to landowners and mitigate the loss to our natural resources. The goal is to offer 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.
- Laurel Wilt Disease – Laurel wilt disease is a deadly vascular disease of plants in the laurel family (Lauraceae). It is caused by the fungus Harringtonia 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 Southeast and is now found in sassafras across the state.
- 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.
- Thousand Cankers Disease – Thousand Cankers Disease has not been found during surveys in Georgia. The Forest Health Management Section of the Georgia Forestry Commission has deployed pheromone traps for Walnut Twig Beetle in north Georgia counties from 2012 to 2017 with no positive samples. GFC resumed trapping in 2019, placing traps in 15 locations in counties bordering Tennessee and North Carolina. Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) was reported in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2010; this was the first report of the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) east of Colorado. The disease is vectored by a tiny beetle the walnut twig beetle and the disease is named due to multiple cankers that form at the point where the beetle bores into the stem to lay eggs. Spores of the Geosmithia morbida fungus, carried by the walnut twig beetle, colonize around the egg chambers producing multiple cankers. As the number of cankers increase and girdle branches, the trees’ ability to move nutrients decreases, and the tree slowly dies.
Invasive Plants (and Helpful Resources)
Details about Invasive Plants:
- Non-native Invasive plant species have no native enemies to limit reproduction and spread. They have the ability to displace native species and are likely to cause harm to the economy, environment or human health. The twelve most 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.
Invasive Plants Resources
- 2021 Dirty Dozen (Top Twelve Nonnative Invasive Plants) List
- 2022 Chinese Privet Identification Sheet
- 2023 Cogongrass County Density Map
- 2023 Cogongrass Percent Inactive Map
- 2023 Cogongrass Winter Update
- 2023 Known Cogongrass in Georgia
- Callery Pear Information
- Cogongrass Eradication Agreement
- Cogongrass Eradication Strategies
- Cogongrass in Georgia
- Cogongrass in Georgia PSA
- Cogongrass: Identifying one of the Most Invasive Plant Species
- 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 a few possible invasive insects that can harm to trees in Georgia:
- Emerald Ash Borer – The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a non-native metallic wood-boring beetle. Unlike our native beetles that kill weakened ash trees as part of the natural nutrient recycling process, emerald ash borers kill vigorously growing and weakened ash trees. Since its detection in Michigan in the early 2000s, emerald ash borer has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees. It was first detected in Georgia in 2013.
- Spongy Moth (formerly gypsy moth) – Spongy moth (formerly gypsy moth) is a non-native forest pest capable of causing severe damage to hardwood trees, especially oaks. Repeated, severe defoliation from gypsy moth larvae (caterpillars) in combination with other environmental stressors lead to a major decline in tree health. In cooperation with the USDA, Georgia deploys traps every year to detect the presence of the moth. The spongy moth is considered established in the northeastern U.S., but there are no known infestations currently in Georgia.
- Hemlock Woolly 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 in the eastern U.S. and has the ability to landscapes that include hemlock trees. Preventative measures are available for homeowners and landowners to protect their trees from HWA.
- Redbay Ambrosia Beetle – Redbay ambrosia beetles carry the destructive laurel wilt disease. See laurel wilt disease for more information.
- 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, all 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.
- 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.
- Asian Longhorn Beetle – Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is a large black and white beetle that is originally from China and the Korean peninsula. While it has a list of over a dozen host species, here in the southeast, it is found mostly in red maple trees. While ALB is currently not found in Georgia, it has been found in neighboring South Carolina. Early detection of this insect is imperative because eradication of the species is possible with early detection.
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.
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. All Georgia State Parks have firewood available for purchase. If the wood has been inadvertently brought into camp, it should be burned on-site immediately 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.
Alerts & Updates
|EAB Update (posted 9-24-21)|
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) was first detected in Georgia in 2013 in DeKalb and Fulton Counties and has now been found in 44 counties in Georgia. As of September 2021, there are infestations in 35 states, the District of Columbia and five Canadian provinces. Since 2013, both the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Forestry Commission have followed federal guidelines and restricted the movement of ash materials out of quarantine areas.
|Georgia 2022 SPB Aerial Survey Report|
|Georgia 2022 SPB Prediction Trapping Results|
The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) participates annually in the southern pine beetle (SPB) prediction trapping program. The southern pine beetle is the most destructive forest pest in the southeastern states. Survey results are documented in an annual report so that activity and damage levels can be anticipated and mitigated.
|Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Management in Georgia (2019)|
Guidelines for addressing infestation of hemlock woolly adelgid pests.
|Timber Impact Assessment – April 2020 Tornadoes|
On the evening of April 12 and the morning of April 13, 2020, Georgia was part of a severe weather event that extended across the Southeast. The National Weather Service confirmed that 30 tornadoes touched down across the state, ranging in levels from EF-0 to EF-3 and from 0.5 miles to approximately 17 miles long. These storms affected a number of landscapes across the state, including urban, suburban and rural areas.
Helpful Resources – General Forest Health Info
|Forest Health Guide|
|Forest Health Program Area Map|
|Oak Leafminer Factsheet|
Oak Leafminer Factsheet