What are these purple boxes?!
July 12, 2008 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling through Ohio, and am wondering what these purple boxes are hanging from the trees along I-70 between Columbus and Zanesville.
posted by All.star to Travel & Transportation around Ohio (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I believe they are insect traps for monitoring the spread of the emerald ash borer. At least that's what the purple boxes in northeast Ohio are.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:36 PM on July 12, 2008

Best answer: Yarg! It be to fight the Emerald Ash Borer.

"The Ohio Department of Agriculture has placed 7,500 purple traps around northeastern Ohio and other parts of the state where the Emerald Ash Borer has not been seen. The idea is to make sure the borer hasn't moved beyond the quarantine areas. The purple traps that are hanging from trees in our area would attract the borer because of its color and a pheromone it releases. The borer flies to the trap and get itself stuck to the non-toxic glue coating the sides. The emerald ash borer attacks Ohio’s estimated 3.8 billion Ash trees by boring into the wood and laying eggs that eat the fibers of the wood."

Purple Trap Particulars [pdf], and a picture, for posterity.
posted by cashman at 8:42 PM on July 12, 2008

aw hell. I guess I got a little too flamboyant there with the links.
posted by cashman at 8:42 PM on July 12, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you! My curiosity has been satisfied.
posted by All.star at 8:48 PM on July 12, 2008

I was just about to ask the very same question. Thanks!!
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2008

WHOA!! We just drove through I-80 in Pennsylvania last weekend, and had the _exact_ same question. I had just made a mental note to myself again to search online again today about what the heck was going on, and I saw this. (We were thinking some kind of weirdly ambitious school project, at first, until it went on for miles and miles and miles, and we figured there was no way that could be it.)

posted by LairBob at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2008

I noticed these last week. Was hoping it was some sort of scavenger hunt! Took some photos today, and was slightly disappointed.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2008

My husband designed those traps! He works for the USDA, and he tested a lot of different shapes and colors (and heights and locations) to figure out what the beetles "like" the most. Most of the research to test the traps was done in Michigan, in the Detroit metro area.

The backstory to those traps is pretty interesting. For the past few years they've been trying to narrow down what works best, including getting custom-colored plastic and painting traps different colors (we had to get a massive pile of paint chips from Home Depot). I helped out with some of the trap assembly and painting. I have also been fortunate enough to get one of the project t-shirts - it's purple with a big picture of the beetle and says "I'm here to save your ash".
posted by nekton at 11:39 AM on August 11, 2008

Is there a particular reason that the beetles "like" the color purple? I'm curious.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:37 AM on August 12, 2008

I asked him, and he said that a lot of Buprestids ("jewel beetles") are attracted to red and purple. Some of it has to do with UV as well - apparently they have tetrachromatic vision (red, blue, green, and UV). The traps are also baited with manuka oil, which was one of many aromatics/volatiles that were tested through an electroantennagram and found to elicit a response (they hook up the antenna to electrodes and see if it detects different scents).
posted by nekton at 12:44 PM on August 15, 2008

Neat! Thanks, nekton.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 10:52 AM on August 17, 2008

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