Penn State researchers think they've created a beetle decoy capable of fooling male emerald ash borers (EAB). If they're correct, these decoys could be deployed to trap males, and possibly slow the spread of this destructive forest pest.
Photo: Left, Michael J. Domingue; right, Drew P. Pulsifer. Penn State
Emerald ash borer was first discovered in Michigan in 2002, but since then, the fast-moving invasive insect has expanded its territory to 17 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces. The tiny green beetle leaves a trail of destruction wherever it goes, having killed tens of millions of ash trees in just 10 short years.
The Penn State team created a mold of the female emerald ash borer's body, but the tricky part was finding a way to mimic the beetle's iridescence. They succeeded by layering polymers with different refractive indexes to create the desired iridescence, and then stamping the resulting material into the mold. Eventually, they created a polymer decoy that just might fool the EAB males.
The next step will be field testing the EAB decoys. Jewel beetles like the ash borer rely heavily on visual cues to find prospective mates. This can sometimes work to the male's disadvantage, such as in the case of the Australian jewel beetle that developed a fondness for mating with beer bottles.
Source: Decoys could blunt spread of ash-killing beetles, Penn State University, media release, February 18, 2013.