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Curbing spread of this eating machine should be top priority
Stemming the invasion of the emerald ash borer.

Date published: 7/20/2012

SOME OF YOU will remember the plastic recumbent type tricycle for kids called The Green Machine. It was even cooler than the original Big Wheel--at least I thought so. That was probably because I didn't have one, making me green with envy. Speaking of green, have you heard about the Mean Green Tree-Eating Machine?

The emerald ash borer is on its way to a tree near you. It's a tree eating machine all right. The larva of this emerald green adult insect tunnels around inside an ash tree until it turns into an adult and crawls out of the wood to eat some leaves, have a family and repeat the process.

Alert readers will recall that this insect has been found in Virginia before. Emerald ash borers were discovered in Fairfax County in 2003. An eradication effort ensued and was presumed successful when the bug was not seen for several years. But it showed up again in Fairfax in 2008, at which point a quarantine restricted the movement of wood out of the Northern Virginia area.

Earlier this year, many of us were celebrating that the massive trapping effort (the purple triangle-shaped boxes hanging from trees along roadways) revealed no known spread of emerald ash borers outside of the known quarantine areas at the end of 2011.

Perhaps you've noticed the purple boxes hanging from trees. These are designed to attract adult emerald ash borer beetles to determine their presence. If the trap catches one, we know it is present. However, the converse is unfortunately not the case. An empty trap just means it didn't catch one. For several years, the traps didn't reveal a spread of the beetle, but now they have.

This exotic flat-headed borer has sprung up in nearly every corner of the state. In the past month emerald ash borer has been confirmed in Loudoun, Stafford, Caroline, Hanover, Prince Edward, Pittsylvania, Charlotte, Buchanan, Halifax, Mecklenburg, Giles and Lee counties.

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Adam Downing is an agent in Virginia Cooperative Extension's Madison County office, specializing in forestry and natural resources. Phone 540/948-6881; fax 540/948-6883; email adowning@vt.edu.