In this Oct. 26, 2011, file photo, forester Jeff Wiegert of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation removes emerald ash borer larvae from an ash tree in Saugerties, N.Y. (AP Photo)
MEMPHIS — State and federal agriculture officials are tracking how far the emerald ash borer beetle has advanced by hanging purple triangular traps in trees across Tennessee.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday that the beetle has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the eastern United States and Canada. The species is not native to North America.
Tennessee Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Heather Orne told The Commercial Appeal about 1,400 traps are being placed across the state. The goal is to provide a more complete national assessment and to locate new infestations for possible treatment and quarantine.
"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 other areas," Tennessee Department of Agriculture plant certification administrator Gray Haun said.
The beetle traps work in a similar fashion as fly traps. Their purple color is attractive to the emerald ash borers, and they are coated with an adhesive that captures insects when they land.
The color also makes the traps easy to point out among the greenery, but they pose no risk to humans, pets or wildlife.
Officials say the ash borers were first discovered in Tennessee in 2010 at a truck stop along Interstate 40 near Knoxville. The state began placing traps in that area in 2011.
State officials suspect that the borers entered the state on firewood or ash wood materials brought from another state where infestations have occurred.
Eighteen East Tennessee counties are under a quarantine, meaning no hardwood firewood, ash logs, ash seedlings and ash bark can be moved outside of those counties without approval.
The USDA asks that that people who find traps blown out of trees to report the downed traps to a national hotline at 1-866-322-4512 or the USDA's emerald ash borer webpage.
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