Since early spring Dr. Charlie Helpert has tirelessly driven the country roads of north Texas, and knocking on doors in the area, in a effort to make Texas trees safer from insect attack. The enemy is the emerald ash borer, and the weapon is an early detection network of traps and volunteers trained to spot this foreign invader that threatens ash trees throughout the eastern U.S.
I wrote about this project last year and so far the news has been good. No ash borer yet in Texas. But the work goes on, and so Dr. Helpert continues to deploy and man his early warning system.
The project is part of a nationwide effort to monitor and control the spread of this borer with a selective appetite for trees in the genus Fraxinus. Ash trees are important hardwood and shade trees for this country, and in areas where the borer is active are putting the hurt on trees and tree owners alike. The goal of the project is to give states like Texas early warning and, in the process, a chance to slow the spread of the borer.
Last year Dr. Helpert was the only man standing between emerald ash borer and Texas forests. This year, in a strategic move, the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) decided to expand the trapping network in Texas. Approximately 1700 traps have been deployed throughout the state in a cooperative effort between Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas Forest Service and Sam Houston State University.
The city of Plano, TX recently interviewed Dr. Helpert for a video (see above) about his efforts to install the purple sticky traps in ten north Texas counties. He and Denise Moore with the City of Plano explains the effort and what tree owners can do to protect their trees from borers of all kinds.