Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants (RWU 4552)

Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants (SRS RWU 4552)

Thank you for visiting the website for our research unit, “Insects, Diseases, and Invasive Plants,” part of the Southern Research Station Unit, USDA, Forest Service.

Our mission is to provide the basic biological and ecological knowledge and innovative management strategies required for management and control of native and non-native insect pests, disease pathogens and invasive plants in changing forest ecosystems.

News and Events

Southern Forest Health Newsletter: Summer 2016

In this issue:

  • SPB Activity Escalates
  • Redbay Ambrosia Beetle
  • Sugarberry Mortality
  • Gypsy Moth Conditions
  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Bug Day Success
  • Staff News
  • Tech Transfer

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Southern Forest Health Newsletter: Spring 2016

In this issue:

  • Wood Decomposition Research
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
  • Sebastian Seibold visits SRS 4552 in Athens
  • Science Fair Judges
  • Forest Health Committee
  • Boy Scout Project
  • Staff Changes
  • Tech Transfer

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Southern Forest Health Newsletter: Winter 2016

In this issue:

  • Federal Noxious Weed Interception
  • HWA Predator Release in North and South Carolina
  • SPB Conditions
  • Staff Changes
  • Technology Transfer

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Previous Issues »

Recovering from Laurel Wilt

Redbay trees are common in southern U.S forests and produce small fruits that many animals rely on. Photo by Karan Rawlins, University of Georgia. Courtesy of

February 11, 2016 on CompassLive

Originally from Asia, the redbay ambrosia beetle and the fungus it carries in its jaws have found a new home in the southern United States. Eradication is impossible at this point, and the fungus causes laurel wilt, a highly destructive disease that affects redbay, swamp bay, sassafras, avocado, and pondberry – as well as every other member of the laurel family.

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Laurel Wilt Continues to Spread

U.S. Regional Infestation

February 9, 2016 on CompassLive

The redbay laurels that once graced the coastal forests and residential landscapes of the Southeast have all but disappeared, taken down by laurel wilt, a deadly disease caused by a fungus (Raffaelea lauricola) carried in the jaws of the nonnative redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus).

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First Release in the Carolinas of New Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Predator

Bryan Mudder releasing biocontrol beetles on infested eastern hemlock tree at Bent Creek Experimental Forest near Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Bud Mayfield.

January 13, 2016 on CompassLive

On Friday last week, U.S. Forest Service scientists with the Southern Research Station and Forest Health Protection released just over 1200 Laricobius osakensis beetles on eastern hemlock trees in North and South Carolina. Reared at University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Lindsay Young Beneficial Insects Lab, the predator beetles are natural enemies of the hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that kills hemlock trees in eastern North America.

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Field Guide to Invasive Plants in Southern Forests

Invasive Plants in Southern Forests Book Cover

October 21, 2015 on CompassLive

The U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station publication A Field Guide for the Identification of Invasive Plants in Southern Forests provides a comprehensive identification guide to nonnative trees, shrubs, vines, grasses, ferns and forbs currently invading forests and other natural areas of the southeastern United States.

The information included in the guide is also available as an application for iPhones, iPods, and iPads called Invasive Plants in Southern Forests.

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Emerald Ash Borer and its Enemy Wasps

Emerald ash borer larvae grow underneath the bark of trees. The serpentine galleries they leave behind eventually kill the tree by cutting off the flow of nutrients. Photo by James Marvin Phelps, courtesy of Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

September 22, 2015 on CompassLive

Since emerald ash borer was first detected in Michigan in 2002, the non-native invasive beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees across the U.S., and continues to infest new regions.

Within its native range in Asia, emerald ash borer is attacked by a variety of predators including several species of parasitoid wasps that specialize on the beetle's eggs or larvae. Because these wasps are expected to play a role in maintaining low emerald ash borer populations in Asia, three species have been introduced into North America as biocontrol agents. "There is great interest in knowing how effective these introductions have been in reducing the population growth rates of emerald ash borer in North America," says U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientist Michael Ulyshen.

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Hoping for Empty Traps

Boy Scout William David helps SRS scientist Bud Mayfield prepare to hang traps for the walnut twig beetle along Glenn's Creek Greenway in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

July 16, 2015 on CompassLive

Sometimes you may not really want to find what you're looking for.

On June 11, 6th grader William David, along with his brother Bennett and mother Sherry, met U.S. Forest Service researchers Bud Mayfield and Bryan Mudder to set out traps along a greenway near the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) office in Asheville, North Carolina, for the walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis).

Not yet found in Asheville, the walnut twig beetle, believed to be native to the U.S. Southwest, carries the fungus (Geosmimithis morbia) that causes thousand cankers disease. The fungus grows under the bark of walnut trees entered by the beetles and forms multiple small cankers that cut off the flow of nutrients, killing the tree in as little as three years.

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