You Never Know What You May See In A Tree

You would expect whenever you look up in a tree that you just might see a bird or a squirrel doing what they normally do in a tree because trees are their natural habitat. Of course these days, it is not unusual to see a plastic bag having been blown up there in a wind or even a deer stand built by someone getting ready for the hunting season. All of those things are just items that do appear in trees across our state on a regular basis and we have become accustomed to seeing them there. Other items just don’t fit the landscape as tree adornments, and lately something has been added to trees across the state, which will catch your eye if you happen to see one.

Just the other day on my way home from work, I rounded a corner and there near my farm, in a tree way up high, was a purple three-sided box that looked like some kid had lost his box kite. At first, I wondered if something from outer space had landed there because it was fairly large in size, but after close examination, I could see it was hung there with string on purpose. The purple color made it really standout against the green foliage of the trees it was hanging in. The height of where it hung protected it from being bothered by inquisitive children and myself. However, that didn’t stop me from checking further, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture let me know that they were responsible for placing the purple three-sided insect traps near my home in Middle Tennessee, as well as in ash trees from Mountain City to Memphis in the next few months as part of an expanded surveillance program by state and federal agencies.

It is an important part of a survey to locate the Emerald Ash Borer, which is non-native insect to our state. The deaprtment reports that this bright green wood-boring beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern United States and Canada. Our Tennessee Department of Agriculture is partnering in the survey with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to see just how far the beetle has spread.

“Trapping is a very important tool for us to know how extensive the infestation is and whether additional control measures are needed to slow it from spreading to new areas,” TDA Plant Certification Administrator Gray Haun said in a recent TDA release. “This year, we are extending our trapping efforts across the state as a part of a national survey program.”

The department’s release stated the goal of the expanded trapping program is to provide a more complete national assessment and to locate new infestations for possible treatment and quarantine. Nearly 3,500 traps will be placed in trees across Tennessee by state and federal officials and private contractors.

The purple traps are easy to spot and many are located near area roads. They are coated with an adhesive that captures insects when they land. The purple color is attractive to the Emerald Ash Borer. I guess being as green as the insect is, purple would be a major emotional change for the little wood consuming bug.

“The triangular purple traps pose no risk to humans, pets, or wildlife; however, the non-toxic glue can be extremely sticky,” reports USDA State Plant Health Director Yvonne Demarino. “It’s important people understand that the traps don’t attract or pull beetles into an area, but rather they are a detection tool to help find Emerald Ash Borer if it is present in the area.”

The TDA news release reported that the borer was first discovered in the state in 2010 at a truck stop along I-40 in Knox County. In addition to Knox, five other counties in East Tennessee including Blount, Claiborne, Grainger, Loudon and Sevier are under state and federal quarantines. This means that no hardwood firewood, ash logs, ash seedlings, ash bark and other restricted materials can be moved outside these counties without approval. State plant health officials suspect that EAB entered the state on firewood or ash wood materials brought in from another state where infestations have occurred.

If you see a trap that may have been blown down, this needs to be reported by contacting the national EAB hotline at 1-866-322-4512 or visit For more information about EAB in Tennessee, contact TDA at 1-800-628-2631 or visit An EAB fact sheet can also be found at

I still wonder who discovered that a really green bug thinks that the color purple is attractive. And, all this time we all have been trying to go “green.”


– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at