MIDDLEBURY-Like the insectoid alien invaders depicted in the 1995 sci-fi movie "Starship Troopers," the dreaded ash borer is lurking on the northern and southern fringes of Vermont waiting to pounce. This destructive insect pest has been spotted north and south of us, so the State of Vermont isn't taking any chances in gearing up for the coming war.
Emerald ash borer or EAB: scientists call it Agrilus planipennis.
It's an exotic beetle that looks like a stubby grasshopper with a very nasty attitude.
Adult EABs chew on ash foliage with not much damage, but look out for EABs little ones, or larvae-they feed like demons on the inside bark of ash trees. There its 24/7 chewing cycle blocks water and nutrients to the trees. The ash trees-of which Vermont has millions in the wild-die of starvation.
EABS are illegal alien animals; they arrived in the USA from China inside wooden crates aboard cargo ships at ports of entry in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
The bugs were first found in Ohio in 2003, then Indiana in 2004, Illinois and Maryland in 2006, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2007, Wisconsin, Missouri and Virginia in summer 2008, Minnesota, New York, Kentucky in the spring of 2009, then on to Iowa in spring of 2010 and Tennessee in the summer of 2010, next-where? Is Vermont the next battle zone?
A former Middlebury tree warden, Peg Martin, reports that traps for the ash borer insect can be seen in AddisonCounty.
"This evil beast is headed our way and unfortunately it is only a matter of time," Martin said. "There is just about zero chance of avoiding the ash borer, but it may be possible to control it. For example, here in Middlebury you can see a trap on the east side of South Street extension, just beyond the East View construction site."
Martin is concerned that Vermonters need to be more educated and get serious about the Asian insect invader.
The Middlebury trap is one of hundreds being set by the state.
The purple, three-sided traps resembling a box kite; they can be seen hanging in ash trees throughout Vermont as part of a surveillance program be conducted by federal and state agencies, Martin noted.
Martin also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture are the partners involved in the EAB survey.
The Monteregie region of Quebec, Canada, is the nearest infestation zone to Vermont. However, EAB has not been detected in Vermont-at least, not yet. Martin thinks its arrival is a matter of time.
According to Jon Turmel, Vermont state entomologist, "The traps being placed around Vermont will help us discover if we have EAB in Vermont early on which allows us to address this invasive pest immediately. Early detection is the best tool we have to fight EAB. The ash tree is a very important natural resource in our state and we want to do everything we can to protect our trees. These traps will be placed in ash trees in all counties and at high risk sites, such as campgrounds, sawmills, recreational areas, major transportation arteries, etc."
Turmel said the purple traps are first smeared with a glue; next, they are baited with a bio lure. The funky purple color attracts EAB's vision plus are easy for humans to see among all the green foliage.
These traps will be monitored and remain in place throughout the summer during the beetles' flight season. Results from the trapping will be available to the public when the traps are removed later this summer, according to Turmel.
Check It Out: If you see a purple trap on the ground, call the USDA's toll-free number: 1-866-322-4512. The EAB hotline is staffed during regular business hours and a message may be left at any time. Callers are asked to include a name and telephone number.