Asian bugs seem to enjoy devouring South Carolina foliage.
First, it was the Asian ambrosia beetle. It arrived about three years ago to infect nearly all the redbay trees on Hilton Head Island with a fungus called laurel wilt.
A redbay, or its close relative the sassafras tree, is now a rarity on Hilton Head and in the Savannah area where the beetle was first found in 2002.
The bugs, small enough to fit on the head of a pin, have moved on and are causing significant problems to the same trees on Hunting and Fripp islands.
In recent weeks, arborists have seen another Asian bug called the cycad scale. It is targeting the sago palm. Though these trees are not native to South Carolina, they’re commonly used as ornamentals in landscaping.
The sago palm is an evergreen that’s actually unrelated to palm trees and is part of the cycad family. It’s a shrub-like plant with stiff leaves similar to palms that grow out from a short trunk and resembles a fountain. The bug that’s causing these trees to die is originally in Thailand and southern China. It was accidentally introduced in Florida in the mid-1990s and has marched northward to South Carolina.
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