Fatal disease for trees detected in parts of ENC

KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) – Danny Humphrey has been a hunter for more than 70 years. He has been out in the wild hunting since he was 8 years old.

“I grew up with that desire to relate to nature. I never played basketball, I never played baseball, I always went hunting,” Humphrey said.

Growing up in nature, Humphrey was surrounded by trees. Those trees in the east, are now getting infected with a devastating disease called the “Laurel Wilt.”

“They are an important part of our ecosystem, and I don’t want to see anything damaging our ecosystem,” Humphrey added.

On Monday, Laurel Wilt was found in Pitt County for the first time, following Lenoir and Jones Counties in the past few years.

According to forest health specialist Jim Moeller, this disease is carried by the Ambrosia beetle from Asia, which kills trees once they bore into them, leaving white little toothpicks with a sawdust texture on the trees.

“It is alarming just because it is an invasive insect and disease that is killing healthy red bay trees and other trees in the laurel family,” Moeller explained.

The tree is left with black streaks on the inside when it has been infected and dies.

Moeller added that trees that die from Laurel Wilt are at greater risk of forest fires as the dried leaves and trees become better fuel for the fire than green trees.

According to the Pitt County Ranger Robyn Weber, there is one way to prevent the spread of the Laurel Wilt. “Any firewood should not go out of the state or into the state. We want to make sure we are not spreading it if that is the case. make sure it is contained and not go anywhere else,” Weber said.

There is no known cure or solution for the Laurel Wilt at the moment. Fungicides can be used as a preventative step for the trees.