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How 3D-printed traps are tracking an invasive species in Ont.

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A pilot project is using 3D-printed traps to help track an invasive species across Ontario.

The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a tiny insect that has been detected in the province, and kills hemlock trees by sucking fluid from twigs.

The pests leave behind a trail of wool-like wax that protects itself and its eggs.

“It’s not in Brant County yet, as far as I know, but it is in Haldimand County not too far away,” said Neil Dunning, president of the Brant Woodlot Owners Association.

That’s still a little too close for comfort for Dunning, but he is getting help from a small orange trap that helps track if there are any of the pests present.

It’s thanks to a partnership between Natural Resources Canada and the Invasive Species Centre, which runs the HWA trap program. 

“Bits of DNA from the aphids will fall on the slides,” said Dunning. “At the end of June, I mail the slides in to the Invasive Species Centre.”

It helps woodlot owners stay ahead of the game by tracking whether there are any signs of the bug.

Forest entomologist Chris MacQuarrie with Natural Resources Canada is preparing to receive samples from about 100 people.

“They volunteered to host the trap on their property, and to be able to get one, they had to tell us whether they have a hemlock they’re responsible for,” MacQuarrie said.

The program helped turn up a positive detection last year, which encouraged them to broaden their efforts this year and double the number of traps.

“We’ll send [test slides] to a lab in Ottawa where they can actually extract the DNA from the Vaseline that’s been captured and then see if there was any hemlock woolly adelgid DNA,” said MacQuarrie.

Considering there’s no chemical treatment that can be sprayed over an entire woodlot without damaging wildlife, Dunning is thankful for his little orange shield of sorts.

“If [the hemlocks] all died, this would be almost bare,” said Dunning, pointing to all the hemlock trees on the property.

He is well aware the trap is helping keep his hemlock haven alive.

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