South Carolina Forestry Commission
News Release

February 25, 2005


(Columbia, SC) - Forestry experts say an imported insect may be tied to the mysterious death of thousands of red bay trees in Beaufort and Jasper Counties. A multi-agency team will convene next week to investigate, said SC Forestry Commission scientist Andy Boone.

Boone said the team will focus on an insect called the Asian ambrosia beetle. Previously unknown in this country, the pinhead-sized beetle was discovered in Georgia about a year ago. Until found in a Beaufort County red bay in December, the beetle had not been known to attack living trees.

Scientists originally associated the dying red bays with drought-related changes in water levels and water quality. Boone said the mortality seems focused within a 30-mile radius of Savannah, and that Asian ambrosia beetles have now been found throughout the affected area.

The Asian ambrosia beetle is one of a large group of insects that do not normally attack healthy living trees. They do, however, carry a fungus capable of killing a tree by clogging itís circulatory system.

The investigation team, consisting of scientists from the SC Forestry Commission, Clemson University, Cornell University, and the US Forest Service will sample trees throughout the affected area.


For more information, contact: Ken Cabe, 803-896-8820.

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