Destructive emerald ash borer has yet to show in Waterloo Region

Generally we like this article. It is well written and contains very useful information about emerald ash borer. However, we disagree with the statement that treatments are “pricey”.

The term “pricey” is very subjective. Treatment costs may be “affordable” when the true value of a tree is considered (aesthetic, setimental, heating/cooling, property, and social values). What is known is that the cost of doing nothing against emerald ash borer will be “priceier” in the long run. We are not advocating the treatment of all ash trees, but that it be considered as one of many tools in an integrated pest management approach to dealing with emerald ash borer.

KITCHENER – So far, we’ve been lucky.

The emerald ash borer — a persistent and sneaky beetle that’s caused millions of dollars worth of damage and “catastrophic tree loss” in counties all around us — has yet to show its green little head in Waterloo Region.

But, as the space between us and our quarantined neighbours becomes smaller and smaller, the question on city foresters’ minds is not if the tiny pest will find its way here, but how do we minimize the damage when it does.

“It’s going to be a serious problem and it’s going to have a significant impact on some parts of the city,” said David Schmitt, Kitchener’s Urban Forestry Manager. “Even with the mapping we’ve done with street trees, we can see some parts of the city are going to be much more affected than other parts.”

The emerald ash borer is a small, but destructive, green beetle native to Asia. It attacks and eventually kills ash trees, remaining relatively undetected under the tree’s bark until populations are large.

It was first detected in Canada in 2002 near Windsor and has since cut a path of destruction through southern Ontario, the Niagara region, Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie. Those areas, as well as Huron County, Norfolk County and Ottawa are now subject to a Federal Ministerial Order that prohibits the movement of ash wood to areas outside of the quarantine.

An emerald ash borer infestation can kill a tree in three years. In 10 years, an area can see as much as 98 per cent of its ash trees destroyed.

In Kitchener alone, there are 4,552 ash trees on city streets. That doesn’t include any in parkland or on private property.

The cost of removing dead trees and replanting new ones could be upwards of $5 million. Add in the qualitative benefits the trees provide to the city – including stormwater management and air quality improvements – and the losses would be closer to $7.5 million.

It’s those figures, and the accompanying losses to the city’s green landscape, that has Kitchener looking at proactive steps to curb the impact of what was once thought to be an unstoppable pest.

City staff want $175,000 out of the 2011 budget to put together an emerald ash borer strategy. They’d also like to bump up a city-wide tree inventory scheduled for 2014 to next year.

“This is about managing your costs by trying to just have a bit more control over the issue rather than just be challenged by very significant tree loss in a short period of time,” said Schmitt.

Staff are looking into an advanced technology that would allow them to identify tree species by a colour signature given off in aerial images. That would help pinpoint exactly where all the Ash trees are in the city and where the borer could potentially spread.

The management plan could include cutting edge early detection techniques like branch sampling – a process that’s being used to detect low density infestations far in advance of the four to five years it typically takes for trees to show symptoms.

“A lot of times what’s happened up until now is you don’t find the population until they’re quite large – lots of infested trees, thousands of beetles and you didn’t even know it was there,” said Krista Ryall, a scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, which is spearheading the branch sampling research. “This method, what we’ve been able to do is find infested trees that had no symptoms.”

The city of Burlington used branch sampling this year to confirm an infestation that hadn’t yet reached the city limits. If caught early, the municipalities can take steps like cutting down surrounding trees or treating trees with a pricey chemical injection to try and prevent further spread to the rest of the ash population, Ryall said.

The cities of Cambridge and Waterloo are monitoring the emerald ash borer situation and have stopped planting ash trees. Both said they’ll manage their prevention and detection practices using their existing resources.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is now setting up traps in Waterloo Region to see if any of the insects have arrived in this area without detection. They’ll also be conducting field surveys over the summer.

The beetle is a strong flyer and can travel several kilometres in search of a new food source, said Allison Barr, the agency’s regional program manager. However, most of the spread has been attributed to firewood and other ash wood sources that have been moved out of quarantined, or regulated, areas.

Barr warned the fine for anyone caught moving ash out of a regulated area is $400 for an individual and $4,000 for a commercial business. The CFIA will be conducting firewood blitzes thorough the summer to ensure compliance, she said.

“Most of the time, it’s not intentional,” Barr said. “It’s an innocent, ‘Let’s go out for the weekend,’ throw some firewood in the back, kind of thing. But it’s a very dangerous situation for us.”

Most provincial parks are promoting a buy local, burn on site policy, she said.

For more information on restricted areas and symptoms of infestation, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at and search emerald ash borer.

Republished from The Article by Melinda Dalton, June 16, 2010

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