May 20, 2009

Those who live or plan to travel close to the Ohio River this summer likely will see purple prisms hanging from ash trees.  These prisms are traps for emerald ash borer.

The emerald ash borer is a small, dark green metallic beetle that attacks all species of ash trees.  Adult borers feed on a tree's leaves. The larvae burrow into the tree to feed on the bark, destroying the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients to its canopy. This can cause loss of the entire canopy within a year or two.

The borer was discovered in Michigan in 2002 and since then has destroyed more than 40 million trees in 10 states and cost countless numbers of homeowners millions of dollars in tree removal and replacement.

About 3,000 traps were put up across the state in 2008. While no infestations were found, it's likely to happen in the future because the borer has been found as close as Cincinnati, said Lee Townsend, extension entomologist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

The traps are part of an emerald ash borer survey, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and U.S. Forest Service. The Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist began overseeing the installation of traps during the third weekend in May. Traps are placed along the Ohio River from Ballard County to Boyd County and about two counties deep.  In addition, traps will be at rest areas, campgrounds, state parks and other tourist attractions across the state.  In total, they will install about 6,000 traps that will remain in place through the borer's flight, which ends in August.

The traps are about 2-feet-long and baited with a combination of oils to attract the borers if they are present in the state. Traps will not cause any harm to humans, animals or trees.

"These traps do not contain anything toxic and are not going to cause infestations to develop," Townsend said. "They are designed to find insects that are already there."

If emerald ash borer infestation is suspected, contact the USDA-APHIS Emerald Ash Borer hotline at 866-322-4512 or the Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist at 859-257-5838.