Researchers pinned bioreplicated and 3D printed decoys, as well as a dead female emerald ash borer, onto leaves to see which of them best attracted the male beetles. Photo: Michael Domingue/Penn State
Researchers pinned bioreplicated and 3D printed decoys, as well as a dead female emerald ash borer, onto leaves to see which of them best attracted the male beetles. Photo: Michael Domingue/Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - A female beetle decoy may soon rid the United States of the destructive emerald ash borer.

An international team of researchers has developed a decoy female ash borer that attracts, then electrocutes the male beetles as they land on it to mate. The results of the study appeared in the Sept. 15 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our new decoy and electrocution process may be useful in managing what the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service claims to be the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America," Michael Domingue, a postdoctoral fellow in entomology at Penn State, said in an article by Sara Lajeunesse and posted on the university's website. Researchers from the university worked with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Forest Research Institute in Matrafured, Hungary, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the project.

Two types of decoys were created: a bioreplicated female  and a 3D digitally printed version. Although both types initially attracted the males, only the bioreplicated version enticed the males to land and be electrocuted and trapped. (See video below)

Since being introduced from China in 2002,  the emerald ash borer has killed tens of millions of native ash trees. The destruction has been widespread, throughout 24 states and two Canadian provinces, according the Forest Service.

According to the Penn State article, the next step by researchers will be to further improve the traps to maximize their potential as part of an early detection tool for emerald ash borers.

In addition to Domingue, other authors on the paper include: Drew Pulsifer, recent graduate student in engineering science and mechanics; Loyal Hall, graduate student in entomology; John Badding, professor of chemistry; Jesse Bischof, graduate student in chemistry; Raul Martin-Palma, adjunct professor of materials science and engineering; and Missy Hazen, research technologist, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences - all of Penn State; and Zoltan Imrei of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Gergely Janik of the Forest Research Institute in Matrafured, Hungary; and Victor Mastro of the USDA. The research was supported by the USDA and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The video shows a male emerald ash borer landing on an electrified female decoy and dropping into the trap. Credit: Michael Domingue/Penn State

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