What It Is That I Do

“And just what is it that you do?” some may ask after my stretch of recent posts on the ”new job.”

Good question. One which The Lovely One asked outright on Friday evening, as she sipped a glass of wine and sought to unwind and escape from the complicated toils of work. (The tale of her job lately would provide much more amusement and amazement than my own automotive scampers around the eastern nose of Iowa. But I hesitate to expose her work life here in this presumably public forum. Letʼs just say that sheʼs been excessively busy… and once her boss celebrates his — and his wifeʼs — big joint birthday party, complete with celebrity vocalist, soon, and then heads off for Wilbur Smith county a little later, her rationality may improve.) And itʼs a question I intend to answer for today.

Not me but a more professional trapper placing the trap aloft in an ash*

What I do is to create and place purple cardboard traps to ensnare (hopefully not) emerald ash borers. The bug in question is an Asian invader for which North America offers no native predatory controls. Thus the little metallic green (and metallic maroon) pest has chewed its larval way through the ash groves of western New York and Pennsylvania, all of Ohio and Michigan, eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois and Indiana. A northern piece of Kentucky, abutting Ohio and Indiana is also infested. These states (or the appropriate portions thereof) are on the national Emerald Ash Borer Quarantine, along with West Virginia and the southwesterly portion of Maryland. 

Supposedly the bug entered from Ontario into Michigan and thence to Ohio and through transport of firewood (ash wood containing the eggs or larvae of the pest) and other vectors into the other affected states. Iowa has evidence of the critter in one county (unfortunately, I must say, “so far”), Allamakee. Missouri also has one quarantined county. All the counties in all the states touching the actual boundary of the quarantine (from which no firewood is to be transported, thus the rallying cry of “Burn it where you buy it”) are part of the study in which I am working — to adjudge if the EAB has spread beyond the current quarantine limits.

So what I do is to trap for bugs, seeking to see if I find any emerald ash borers. And hoping, in truth, that I donʼt.

Using a gridded map, dividing our counties into two-mile by two-mile sections, my partner and I seek out ash trees, one per grid, in which to place our traps. Most days, she drives, while I peruse the map and navigate. At a trapping site, she completes the paperwork and computer files about each trap, while I construct the trap and, using my extendable aluminum pole, place the trap aloft in the selected tree. Then we drive on to the next site.

To assemble a trap, we have large (four-foot long by nearly a yard tall) boxes containing flat traps in pairs, each box holding twenty purple waxed cardboard traps. We also have sealed bags of lure (actually at present three kinds of lure), the scent of which will attract bugs, particularly the EAB; metal “spreaders” designed to hold the trap in shape and from which the lure will dangle; metal “hangers” that fit over tree limbs to hold the assembled trap aloft; and bags of plastic zip ties which are also used to keep the trap in its final triangular shape.

At a stop, generally along a roadside, I hop out and go to the back of the GOV to pull out a pair of traps, glued to each other (the exterior of the final trap is very, very sticky — the better with which to hold the bugs that are allured). I separate the two traps, replacing one, gluey side upwards, on the stack of trap boxes remaining, while I fold the other (cleverly avoiding even the slightest touch of the supersticky glue on the outside surfaces) into its tubular/triangular shape, forcing two tabs on one edge into two slots on the opposite side. With an awl, I drill a hole in each folded tab and the backing cardboard and force a plastic zip tie through to hold the contraption together (two holes, one per tab, each filled with a zip tie). Then I fit the spreader into holes in the top of the trap (the prongs on the wire device fit into the middle of each face of the trap. The spreader also has two loops, one turned upward from the trap, the other downward into the trap. I hang a bag of lure (currently three bags, as we have two kinds of lure this year and are also using up old lure from 2010) from the lower loop and then attach the hanger through the upward loop in the spreader. The hanger has a loop atop it, through which I put the hook on my pole and then raise the trap as high as possible and worthwhile (hopefully about two-third the way up the tree) to hook over a mostly horizontal limb.

Meanwhile my partner has completed two documents, one on paper, one digital, to record all the necessary specifics about the location. And then we drive on. Pretty much, I, the “aid” and trainee, am the muscle to her brains.

* You can see: the pole, extended somewhat, the purple trap, assembled, revealing the tabs pierced by zip ties. The hanger is invisibly dangling the trap from the hook at the top of the pole, and the lure is secreted within the hollow (toward the top) of the trap.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

One thought on “What It Is That I Do

  1. (Catching up on some old posts)

    Wow, I’m sad to read that the Emerald Ash Borer has made it all the way to Iowa. Last time I checked – years ago, admittedly – there were still areas of quarantine/non-quarantine in lower Michigan. I couldn’t bring home firewood from my Dad’s house after he cut down a tree, for instance, and he lives less than an hour away. Now it doesn’t matter because all of lower Michigan is infested. Sigh.

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