Vermont Working To Detect The Emerald Ash Borer

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(Host) Agriculture officials are ramping up efforts to detect the emerald ash borer and, if possible, keep it out of the Green Mountain State.

The invasive insect and its larvae have destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. and Canada. It hasn’t been reported yet in Vermont, but as VPR’s Susan Keese reports, it’s moving closer.

(Keese) Those long, triangular purple things hanging in the trees again this spring look like lost kites. But they’re actually traps, designed to lure emerald ash borers – if any have made it to Vermont, yet.

Research suggests the insects are attracted to purple.

The pests are now in 15 states and have been detected south of Montreal and in eastern New York, and officials want to know if they’ve migrated to Vermont.

Research suggests the insects are attracted to purple.

Sharon Lucik is with the U.S. Agriculture Department. She says the traps contain an ash-like oil that lures the bugs, and a sticky, nontoxic glue to keep them in the traps.

(Lucik) "What our hope is if the beetle is in the area it will come to that trap. And then when we go to the location we will have an indication that emerald ash borer is in that particular area."

(Keese) Lucik says it’s not the insect, but its larva that kills ash trees by boring into the bark and disrupting the flow of nutrients and water up and down its trunk.

Scientists believe the ash borer came to North America from Asia, in wood-based packing material.

Lucik says even though the ash borer can fly, it’s probably spread in wood products, and especially firewood brought in to camp grounds or seasonal homes. 

(Lucik) "The big takeaway message is don’t move firewood. If people would stop moving firewood that would certainly give us an opportunity to find some tools that may work against the emerald ash borer beetle."

(Keese) Scientists have not succeeded yet in stopping the beetles where they’ve taken hold.

But Jim Esden of the Vermont Department of Forests says researchers are looking into parasites, including wasps, that might combat the pests.

(Esden) "In order to give all that work time to perhaps come up with an answer, we need to encourage people to help us slow the spread by not buying nursery stock from the area that’s infested, by not moving firewood, and by being very vigilant in watching our own trees."

(Keese) Esden says scientists are also collecting ash seeds, to save for future replanting, in case the answer doesn’t come in time.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese in Manchester.

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