MINERVA - Many people may be wondering about the recent big purple boxes hanging in ash trees along area roadsides. Others may be wonder what they have in common with a certain destructive small green insect. At first blush the answer would be, not much. At least, that's what the folks who placed them in trees around New York State are hoping for; they do not want to find small green insects on these boxes.
According to Rob Cole of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the boxes are traps designed to attract and catch the emerald ash borer, a half inch-long metallic green flying beetle that has become a major pest in many areas of the country. The larvae of these beetles feed on various species of ash, including white, green, black, and blue ash, and have killed millions of trees, mostly in the mid-west part of the country. White ash especially is a common and important tree in the Adirondack region, and is at risk from EAB infestation.
These destructive insects have been recently discovered in Steuben and Ulster counties in the state.
"The EAB beetle is originally from China, and probably entered this country via packing crates," said Cole.
They have also been found in Quebec, south of Montreal. The purple boxes, which Cole said the EAB are attracted to the color, have been placed along roads in the Adirondacks, within a 100-mile radius of the Quebec infestation. The traps are placed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
The traps are installed in "high risk" areas, including the rights-of-way of well-traveled roads as well as in campgrounds. For the past several years, the DEC has been educating campers about the risks of transporting firewood from outside the Adirondack area in an effort to lessen the chance these exotic pests will become established.
"The the primary means of EAB spread is when firewood and other wood products are moved from infested areas to new areas," said Cole.
The boxes are hollow, three-sided, corrugated plastic and are covered with a very sticky substance that includes manuka oil, which is attractive to the EAB. The boxes were checked in mid-July, according to Cole, and so far the beetles have not been found on the Adirondacks boxes. Statewide, about 7,500 of the purple boxes have been placed to monitor the presence or absence of the beetle.
In 2008 NYS adopted regulations that ban untreated firewood from entering the state and also restricts the movement of untreated firewood within the state to no more than a radius of 50 miles from its source. The regulations were placed as precaution against the spread of the EAB critter, and remain a very important tool in the effort to prevent, or at least slow, the invasion of the beetle.
"Hopefully, people will check out the Web site to learn about the risk and understand the firewood regulations," said Cole.