Ash pests prefer the color purple

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the The Ann Arbor News on Wednesday, June 28, 2006. It was submitted by Mary Wilson, MSU Extension, and Robin Usborne, EAB Communications Manager.

Those tall panels at the northeast corner of Ann Arbor Saline Road and I-94 are not someone’s idea of a graduation prank, even if they are in Pioneer Purple.

They’re part of the research into the emerald ash borer, originally an Asian bug that has destroyed every ash tree it’s come in contact with in southeastern Michigan.

Studies so far have shown that the bright green insects are attracted to the purple color, and the panels are giving off odors that the borers are attracted to - kind of “eau de ash’‘. Some of the traps were placed in Kuebler Langford Park in Ann Arbor last year.

“We’re trying to see what attracts them the best,’’ says David Cappaert, a field coordinator working with Michigan State University researchers to combat the borer. The purple traps would be an inexpensive way to catch the bugs, as opposed to girdling an ash tree, waiting for the insects to attack and cutting the tree to see what’s inside.

The traps were placed near the expressway because the location is near some dying ash trees and because it was easy to get permission from the state, says Cappaert. In addition, the hunk of property isn’t one often frequented by the public, he says.

The larva of the emerald ash borer kills trees by eating the layer of material just under the bark, cutting off nutrients.

Washtenaw County was one of the first places to be hit with the emerald ash borer invasion back in 2002. So far, it’s estimated that the insect has destroyed up to 15 million ash trees in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

The beetle has been identified in a subdivision in northern Illinois, and state officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin are keeping an eye out for the insects.

For more information on the emerald ash borer, check www.emeraldashborer.info

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