Forestry officials are gearing up for a potential invasion of ash-tree destroying beetles in Waterloo Region.
Spearheaded by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a bottle green beetle whose progeny is lethal to ash trees, the invasion has been called the worst threat to trees in North American cities since Dutch elm disease decimated trees in the 1960s.
“EAB was confirmed present in the south end of Kitchener in August 2010,” says David Schmitt, environment and urban forestry project manager, City of Kitchener.
The beetle has been detected in two woodlots on either side of Highway 401 at Homer Watson Boulevard and Fountain Street.
A native of Asia, the beetle is believed to have arrived in North America in wooden packaging material about 10 years ago. It was first discovered Detroit, Mich., in the summer of 2002 and spread Windsor, Ont., shortly thereafter.
The EAB hit Toronto in 2007 and Ottawa one year later. Both cities are now facing near-complete destruction of their ash stock. South of the border, EAB has killed millions of ash trees in several states.
While adult beetles enjoy munching on ash leaves, it’s their larvae that create the most damage. The latter like to burrow and feed beneath the bark, which disrupts the flow of water and nutrients in an ash, eventually killing it.
Once infested, ash trees have a nearly 100 percent mortality rate.
Preventative injections of the insecticide TreeAzin can ward off EAB but are expensive: treatment costs are $100 – $300 per tree and must be repeated every two years. The treatment can’t help ash trees that are already infested.
While EAB hasn’t been detected in the City of Waterloo, officials remain wary. Waterloo council approved $100,000 for anti-EAB efforts this year but hasn’t decided how the money will be spent.
Waterloo boasts “12,407 substantial ash trees,” says John Stewart, manager of forestry and horticulture for Waterloo. This number only includes ashes on city property, woodlots and parks, not private lawns.