Three-sided, bright purple boxes, resembling box kites, that are hanging from trees along roads in the region are piquing residents' curiosity.
Known by state Department of Agriculture as purple panel traps, the boxes are designed to collect emerald ash borers as part of a nationwide study.
''The purple panel traps trap [borers], an invasive beetle species native of Asia,'' said Shu Ambe, survey entomologist with the agriculture department. ''This beetle attacks and destroys all species of ash trees.''
The purple boxes hanging from trees in the region are trapping invasive beetles for a nationwide study. (Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
The beetle first was found in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002. Since then, more than 40 million ash trees in the U.S. have been destroyed by borers, Ambe said.
''This is a national survey,'' said Greg Hoover, an entomologist of Penn State. ''It's not just unique to Pennsylvania.''
The federal government, state agencies and cooperative extensions are collaborating in the trapping and study, he said.
The trap was designed based on a study done in Michigan, Hoover said. The study found that borers were attracted to the color purple.
The traps are hung in the crowns, or leafy parts, of the trees, to increase the chances that emerald ash borers will go to the traps, he added.
Hoover said there is no killing agent in or on the trap. Any beetles that are trapped remain permanently stuck in a sticky substance covering the entire trap, he added, along with any insects that get stuck to the trap.
''The boxes will be visited one time during the summer before they are removed,'' Hoover said. ''At that point in time, we'll have an idea if any adults have been picked up on the trap.''
If any emerald ash borers are found, the teams visiting and monitoring the traps will then know that the area has been affected by the beetle and the Department of Agriculture will quarantine ash products or materials from that county.
According to Ambe, because the beetle has previously been spotted in Pennsylvania, there already is a quarantine for Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties.
Hoover said the boxes will be taken down at the end of August.
''I think the common hope is that [we] all have bad hunting,'' he said.