Capitol Connection – The ‘Barney Trap’

August 11, 2011

I am sure many of you have noticed the purple objects hanging in the trees around the state. They are actually bug catchers that will, hopefully, act as a strong defense against a certain beetle that may harm our trees and forests.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a beetle that has been slowly making its way across the country and toward Connecticut. This beetle was originally found in Michigan and Ontario in 2002 and has recently been found in the state of New York – just 25 miles from the Connecticut boarder.

The EAB, considered an invasive insect, is a small green beetle that belongs to a family known as the buprestids – or metallic wood boring beetles. They range is size measuring between 0.3 and 0.55 inches in length and have iridescent wings.

Photo of Emerald Ash Borer trap taken by Torrington resident Steven M. Renzullo

Photo of Emerald Ash Borer trap taken by Torrington resident Steven M. Renzullo

The reason for concern is that these particular beetles only feed on ash trees. Here in Connecticut we have three types of ash trees. They are the black ash, the green or red ash, and the white ash – which is used to make baseball bats. The larvae feed on the trees’ phloem (inner bark of the tree that carries sugar and nutrients) and cambium (between the bark and wood and responsible for generating new wood), and the adults feed on the trees’ leaves. The larvae bore through the tree injuring it and cutting off its food supply. As the EAB are not indigenous to North America, our ash trees have no defense mechanism and are not evolved to fend off these invasive insects.

So in a proactive measure to stop the Emerald Ash Borers from coming into Connecticut, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has placed bug catchers in many trees throughout the state. Starting back in May, DEP set up 940 traps in all but two Connecticut counties to monitor the presence of the invasive EAB. The traps, nicknamed ‘Barney traps’ due to there large size and purple color, are about 3 feet by 1 foot and hang from trees. You will notice that they are predominantly placed in campgrounds, rest stops, nurseries, and wood product locations, as these are the types of locations the EAB is most abundant.

The purple traps use an oil to attract and lure the beetle and also have a sticky surface causing the EAB to adhere to it. These traps are non-toxic to humans, will not harm birds and other wildlife, and cannot bring the EAB into an area that is not already infested.

The monitoring of the traps has been led by the University of Connecticut Extension Service. Their efforts have been supported and furthered by the help of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, DEP Forestry and State Parks personnel, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, private landowners, wood product businesses, and municipalities. Monitoring is scheduled to wrap up this month and everyone is hopeful that the EAB have not made their way into Connecticut. I encourage you to check with the DEP for more information:

If you at home are interested in ways to prevent the migration into our state, here are some facts and tips. As the spread of this invasive beetle occurs mainly through the movement of raw wood, you are encouraged to only buy firewood that is locally obtained. You may also want to survey your own ash trees for the presence of the EAB. Look for the following symptoms: D-shaped exit hole in the tree bark; S-shaped tunnels on the surface under the bark; sprout growth at the tree base; unusual activity by Woodpeckers; die-back on the top third of the tree; and vertical splits in the bark. To report a possible EAB find, call the Experiment Station at 203-974-8474, or send an email to: [email protected]. Please also remember to not move either the insect or wood from the site where you think the insect might be.