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Contact: Nancy Gray, (865) 436-1208
Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have begun asking about some strange-looking bright purple triangular objects hanging in trees near the park's campgrounds and picnic areas. They may resemble Japanese lanterns, but these are actually beetle traps the park is using to detect the arrival of a new, non-native insect pest, the emerald ash borer.
U.S. Department of Agriculture research indicates the beetles are attracted to the color purple and a lure that smells like a stressed ash tree. The trap exterior is coated with a sticky material which captures insects for periodic removal by park staff.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Supervisory Forester, Kristine Johnson said, "The Asian emerald ash borer (EAB) was first discovered in the U.S. in Southeastern Michigan in 2002, and millions of ash trees have been killed there in only a few years. The 1/2 inch-long green beetle lays eggs in bark crevices on all species of ash. Upon hatching, larvae burrow under the bark, creating feeding tunnels that interfere with the tree's ability to translocate nutrients and fluids. The tree gradually starves and dies. The pest has since spread from Michigan to three adjoining states, as well as to parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Our biggest concern is that EAB will be transported via firewood and nursery stock from quarantined areas of the country into new locations in the park, since ash trees are important parts of the ecosystem and must be protected."
Federal regulations prohibit transportation of any firewood from six quarantined states: Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and Illinois which now host the EAB, plus New York and New Jersey where another new destructive pest, the Asian Longhorn Beetle, can be found.
"Neither emerald ash borer nor Asian longhorn beetle has been found yet in the park," Johnson says, "and we have been working closely with federal and state plant protection agencies to educate the public about the risks associated with transporting firewood. Over 1,600 campers brought firewood into Cades Cove Campground in 2007, and of these 25 were from quarantined counties in Ohio and Michigan. Preventing new pest introductions is our best means to protect native forests."
Park officials say that the trapping program in the Smokies is part of a much broader effort being coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Under APHIS guidance, traps have been placed in a100-mile-wide band outside the known infested area. The park is outside that 100 mile radius, but is one of a network of selected areas that may be at high risk for new infestation because they attract a sizable number of visitors who reside in infested counties. Much more information is available at: www.aphis.usda.gov