CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The West Virginia Department of Agriculture says it is giving up attempts to contain the emerald ash borer's spread within the state just two years after the insects were first detected.

Instead, the agency is going to concentrate on preventing the pest from spreading to parts of the country where it has not been detected, Commissioner Gus Douglass said.

Douglass announced plans Thursday to drop county-by-county quarantines within West Virginia and to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture to add the state to the national quarantine program.

The decision was prompted by the discovery last month of ash borers in Roane County. The bugs first turned up in Fayette County in October 2007 and in Morgan County in May.

"This newest discovery -- and the fact that many of our counties border infested counties in other states -- leads me to believe that much more of our state is home to EAB than we have documented thus far," Douglass said in a statement. "It is no longer feasible to regulate EAB host material on a county-to-county basis, and we must now concentrate on preventing the spread of EAB to non-infested states."

The action means that moving firewood, ash logs and lumber and other ash material is no longer regulated as long as the material stays in the state, Douglass' agency said. Exporting such materials from West Virginia now will be regulated by the USDA.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive species of beetle from China and eastern Asia. The beetles were first reported in the U.S. in July 2002 near Detroit, Mich., and have since spread to West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois and parts of Canada. It was discovered in New York state this spring.

West Virginia officials believed ash borers reached the state via firewood shipments.

The beetles have been blamed for killing millions of ash trees. Adult beetles eat leaves, but the damage is done by larvae that feed on a tree's inner bark.

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