A weekend of vegetables, rabbits, and invasive species education
By Ariel Kirk
In early August, Katie and I set up the Don’t Move Firewood both at the NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) conference at the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst, MA. The event was busy with seminars and workshops for both the aspiring organic farmer and tips to improve the methods of those in the know for decades. People could learn about farming with draft horses, teens could take workshops on raising goats and rabbits, what were the best options to fight garden and farm pests without using chemicals, and how to market that bumper crop of great veggies when the harvest is ready. It was interesting to see the variety of products being sold – and the variety of questions we were getting at the Don’t Move Firewood booth.
One of the more common questions was about the odd purple box that we have on display, and how it relates to the emerald ash borer. These purple “traps” are actually survey tools that help biologists search for the emerald ash borer more efficiently. The traps are a specific purple color that emerald ash borers are attracted to, and then they have a very sticky substance that catches any beetle that tries to land on the purple panels. Biologists then periodically check these traps, allowing the experts to better located new infestations of emerald ash borer. The trees with these traps in them are labeled, with an explanation is given on a plaque for the public to read…which is great if you’re hiking and come across one, but easy to miss if you are driving past.
Some of the visitors to our booth didn’t initially understand the message of “Don’t Move Firewood” when they first read our banner, but once we explained the concept of the issue a light bulb went off and they were making great connections to similar problems in their area- Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and other waterways across the nation, Asian carp disrupting native aquatic ecosystems, and many invasive plant species crowding out native plants and skewing the regional environmental balance. All of these instances are great examples of introduced species that have had a negative effect on the native environments, just like how the invasive insects we talk about have a dramatic negative effect on our forests.
Now, next time you see those odd purple boxes hanging in the trees off the side of the road you’ll know exactly what they’re for and how they’re helping scientists keep tabs on the emerald ash borer in the region.