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Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Electronic nose is early detection tool for emerald ash borer infestations

Wilson used a dual technology e-nose system for the laboratory component of the research study. This device is an incredibly powerful research tool that detects gas emissions from living trees. E-nose detection of these emission provides real-time information about the health state of individual trees. (Forest Service photo by A. Dan Wilson)


Electronic noses, specialized machines that can be hand-held devices or for laboratory use, can detect emerald ash borer (EAB) larvae while ash trees are still alive and before signs of insect infestations appear. Early detection can prevent tree death and damage, and can also prevent EAB from spreading to healthy trees. This new tool has the potential to greatly improve the effectiveness of direct EAB control and quarantine procedures to mitigate tree damage and provide options for early tree harvests to preserve lumber value.


An electronic-nose (e-nose) was recently developed as a new tool to detect emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) infestations much earlier than current methods allow. The e-nose can detect damage from EAB before symptoms appear, which can prevent tree death and damage. Early detection can also prevent EAB from spreading to healthy trees.

EAB larvae kill trees by tunneling through the sapwood. Although they are hidden under the bark, their presence can be detected with an e-nose. Even though EAB larvae only tunnel shallowly into the sapwood, they cause significant damage that changes the physiology of the entire tree. The damage changes the volatile organic compounds released from the sapwood, which the e-nose can detect.

E-nose early detections of EAB infestations could potentially save millions of ash trees from further damage, mitigating billions of dollars in economic losses in tree values and lumber across affected areas, and help to determine when quarantine measures are necessary. This tool has far-reaching application as a forest health management tool to detect other major insect and disease pests.

View the feature story, How Electronic Noses Find Emerald Ash Borers.

Principal Investigator
A. Dan Wilson, Research Plant Pathologist
4155 - Center for Bottomland Hardwoods Research
Strategic Program Areas
Invasive Species
Resource Management and Use
Detection of emerald ash borer infestations in living green ash by noninvasive electronic-nose analysis of wood volatiles
CompassLive Article
E-Noses Detect Emerald Ash Borer Larvae
External Partners
Benjamin A. Babst - University of Arkansas at Monticello
Mohammad M. Bataineh - University of Arkansas at Monticello