While it wouldn’t be too surprising to learn that the bright purple objects draped from trees in the Town of Tusten are an expression of a local artist’s creative vision, the truth is they are traps targeting the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a bad-news beetle that has been closing in on the Upper Delaware Region.
Nineteen counties in Pennsylvania and seven in New York now show evidence of EAB populations. In New York, the beetle is as close as Ulster County, which adjoins Sullivan County. In Pennsylvania, it has progressed eastward and has been identified in Lycoming and Union counties, among others.
The insect, which is smaller than a penny, has destroyed more than 50 million ash trees since its discovery in 2002 in southeastern Michigan. The Asian beetle infests and kills North American ash species including green, white, black and blue ash.
Adult beetles leave distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of branches and trunks. Adults are roughly 3/8- to 5/8-inch long with metallic green wing covers and a coppery red or purple abdomen. They may be present from late May through early September but are most common in June and July. Signs of infection include tree canopy dieback, yellowing and browning of leaves. Most trees die within two to four years of becoming infested.
In New York, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), there are three strategies of deployment for EAB traps, which are purchased by the United States Department of Agriculture and provided to DEC for placement and monitoring.
The first strategy is for a grid-based placement where each four-square-mile block in non-infested counties gets a single trap. The second is a direct placement in high-risk areas. The third is around known infestations in existing counties to help slow the spread. In all, 8,000 traps will be put up in New York State this summer.
The plan is to have all traps in place from June through September. For those interested in purchasing or hosting the traps on their properties for the DEC, the agency is attempting to make that possible next year. The traps need to be examined by trained personnel.
EAB traps have been placed in Pike and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania as well. According to Sven-Erik Spichiger, entomology program manager at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the state is participating in the national EAB program survey. Most of Northeastern PA is included in a high-risk survey in which traps are placed at sites that have the greatest chance of becoming infested, such as rest areas, truck stops, campgrounds, industrial sites and lumber mills.
The survey will help to identify populations in preparation for management activities as well as to let citizens know when EAB has reached their communities. The survey activities started May 16 and will continue through the end of August. Both states have conducted ongoing public information campaigns in hopes of slowing the spread by raising awareness so people can spot infestations early, and to encourage people not to transport firewood.
Woodlot owners with ash trees are urged to stop and learn more before taking action. “The potential threat of EAB is real; however, acting without understanding the specific threat to your trees, regulations and quarantines, and your options, could cause the unnecessary loss of treasured shade trees, or loss of substantial income from your woodlot,” specifies the DEC on its website.