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Insect traps going up across Kentucky

Insect traps going up across Kentucky

Insect traps going up across Kentucky

Published on Apr. 15, 2011

As tourists and Kentucky residents travel across the state this spring and summer, they may see unfamiliar objects in the trees. These are not debris but rather traps for two potentially devastating tree insect pests—the emerald ash borer and the gypsy moth.

“These traps do not contain anything toxic and are not going to cause infestations to develop," said Lee Townsend, extension entomologist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "They are designed to find insects that are already there."  

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

The borer was discovered in 2002 in Michigan. Since then, it has spread and destroyed more than 40 million trees in 10 states and cost countless numbers of homeowners millions of dollars in tree removal and replacement. The borer was first found in Kentucky in 2009 in Shelby and Jessamine counties. Five more Northern and Central Kentucky counties reported finds in 2009. As a result, the Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist issued a quarantine, which prevented the transportation of firewood over county lines for roughly the area between Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati. In 2010, additional finds were reported in counties already in the quarantine area as well as counties in northeastern Kentucky.

Emerald ash borer traps are 2-feet-long purple prisms that hang at least 10 feet above ground in ash trees. They are baited with insect attractant. About 6,500 traps will be installed along the leading edge of the quarantine area. Traps will also be installed at campgrounds, state parks, rest areas and other tourist attractions. They will remain in place through the borer's flight, which ends in August, and collected for examination.

The emerald ash borer traps are part of a survey funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Forest Service. The Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist manages these traps.

Unlike the emerald ash borer, which is a relatively new pest to the United States, the gypsy moth has been causing problems since the late 1860s, when the moths escaped in Massachusetts from a man who was hoping to use them for silk production. It is a major insect pest of the Northeast and is expanding its range.

The Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist has been monitoring gypsy moths since 1983. Gypsy moths are one of the most destructive forest pests in North America. As caterpillars, the moths feed on about 500 different plant species but particularly like oak. They have been known to completely defoliate trees. Active populations are in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana.

Since the early 1980s, the moth has been found in 75 Kentucky counties with three active populations, but was controlled or eradicated before it caused a problem. Nursery inspectors with the Office of the State Entomologist participate in the USDA’s Slow the Spread Program, which combines resources of many national and state forest and insect organizations to slow gypsy moth infestations in an environmentally friendly and cost effective way.

The gypsy moth traps are installed as part of that program. The traps are tent shaped and placed directly on trees. Like the emerald ash borer traps, they use attractants to lure in male moths. Trap shapes are the same, but colors may vary from red, green and brown because the color isn’t important to the insect.

About 4,500 gypsy moth traps will be installed in and around Lexington, Louisville, the Land Between the Lakes region and along the Ohio River.

If an 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. Information on the status of this insect in Kentucky is available at

Contact the Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist if a gypsy moth infestation is suspected.

Entomology Forestry Horticulture

Contact Information

Scovell Hall Lexington, KY 40546-0064