Conservation Currents

The Green Menace vs. Purple Tents

May 2011

By Lissa Stark

It sounds like something out of a comic book: the Green Menace. A superhero's nemesis. The villain. However, in this case, the Green Menace is the name used by the USDA when referring to the Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (Coleoptera:Buprestidae) is an invasive species wood-boring beetle, native to China and eastern Asia, which has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. and Canada. This destructive beetle is metallic green and roughly 1/2 inch long and 1/8 inch wide.

The Green Menace (a.k.a. EAB) attacks only ash trees, and all the ash species (including green, white, black, and blue) are at risk. The beetles can develop from eggs to adults in as little as 1 year. In the summer months, females lay eggs in bark crevices and the eggs hatch in about 10 days. The eggs develop into wormlike larvae, which tunnel under the bark to feed and grow throughout the fall. It is this tunneling and feeding that eventually kills the tree. Larvae lay dormant during the winter and emerge from trees in May as adults, leaving unique D-shaped exit holes.

EAB kills stressed and healthy trees and is so aggressive that ash trees may die within a couple of years after they become infested. EAB larvae can easily be transported hidden under the bark of firewood, so buy and burn local firewood to avoid spreading the Green Menace. For information, visit www.purpleEABsurvey.info or www.stopthebeetle.info.

By now, most of us have seen the purple triangular tent-like contraptions hanging from trees in our neighborhoods and wondered who hung those devices and why.

The purple, three-sided traps resembling a box kite can be seen in ash trees throughout Vermont as part of a surveillance program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. EAB has not yet been detected in Vermont, but these traps are a detection tool due to the threat of infestation. The Monteregie region of Quebec Canada is the closest EAB infestation to Vermont's northern border.

The traps will be placed in ash trees in all counties and at high risk sites such as campgrounds, sawmills, recreational areas, and major transportation arteries. The purple traps are coated with an adhesive that captures the insects when they land and are baited with a lure to attract the pest if it is present. In addition, the color is thought to be attractive to EAB, and is relatively easy for humans to spot among the foliage.

The traps are being placed around Vermont to help determine if EAB is present in Vermont in an effort to protect our ash trees. The traps do not pose a risk to humans, pets, or wildlife, but the non-toxic glue is said to be extremely sticky. Monitoring of the traps will take place throughout the summer during the beetles' flight season, and are scheduled to be removed in the fall.

If you think you might have the Emerald Ash Borer in your neighborhood, call the Vermont EAB Hotline at 802-241-3544.

Lissa serves on the Board of Supervisors of the Bennington County Conservation District, whose mission is to promote rural livelihoods and protect natural resources in southwestern Vermont.