"What are those hanging purple things all over the place?"

That is what people are asking each other regarding sporadic sets of purple hangers, resembling Asian hanging lanterns, placed high in trees adjacent to major roads throughout the area.

They are actually entomology program traps placed there by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to catch and study the infestation levels, if any, of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.

The purple device is a three-sided, three-foot high panel trap covered in sticky glue that capture and hold the target insects. The traps are equipped with a lure made of oils from the Manuka and Phoebe trees, which have been shown, in combination with the purple color of the traps, to be highly attractive to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an introduced pest of ash trees.

These traps are currently being used intensively in the western counties of Pennsylvania and in high risk areas around the rest of the commonwealth as part of the Emerald Ash Borer National Survey.

The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is an invasive insect that was initially detected in North America about nine years ago. The beetle is metallic green in color and about a half-inch long. Adult beetles do little harm to ash trees but the same cannot be said for its larvae, which tunnel under the bark and disrupt the systems that transport food and water to the tree. This eventually starves and kills the tree.

The Emerald Ash Borer may have arrived in the United States inside wood packing material from Asia. Since its discovery in southeastern Michigan, the Emerald Ash Borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

While Emerald Ash Borer adults do fly, they rarely fly more than a mile. The majority of Emerald Ash Borer infestations are an effect of human behavior. Many new infestations have been started by people unknowingly transporting infested ash materials such as nursery stock, logs or firewood into uninfested areas.

Emerald Ash Borer infestations have already cost municipalities, property owners, and industries millions of dollars.

To prevent the spread of the insect, the Department of Agriculture recommends not transporting firewood, since the insect can be present in the wood, and the infestation can be spread by moving wood from an infested area. Resident are urged not to bring in firewood from out of state.

For more information, check out the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's website at http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us.