Woodlot group warns of impending destruction from emerald ash borer
Imagine waking up to find half of the trees in every park, forest and yard in Niagara Region gone. It seems like a nightmare, yet the scenario is all too real. The emerald ash borer, a small green beetle introduced accidentally to North America in 2002, is already devastating ash trees in the American Midwest and parts of Ontario. According to experts on both sides of the border, the beetle is fated to destroy most of North America’s ash trees.
“It is massive. We’re not just talking 100,000 trees. If ash makes up 50 per cent of the forest… and we have 17,000 hectares, that’s somewhere around 500,000,000 ash trees just in the Niagara Peninsula,” said Paul Robertson of the Niagara Woodlot Association. The association wants to educate the public about the threat, to help stem the spread of the insect, or at least monitor the damage it causes. Woodlot Association board member Cam Pritchard said it is especially important to get the word out to urban residents, who are generally less aware of threats like this.
“We want to get more members, more people involved and spreading the word. We want people to keep a close eye on what’s happening and learn about the emerald ash borer. It’s something we really need to keep account of. Just because you’re in the city doesn’t mean you can’t keep track of your trees,” said Pritchard. He said the beetle was often spread through sales of firewood from infected trees. Bob Oliver, also of the woodlot association, said the first sign of damage was often a hole in the trunk of the tree.
“They make a bore-hole into a tree that has a d-shape, approximately a quarter-inch in diameter. That’s your first indication. Then you start to get die back, then you start to get sprouting. The tree is suffering and is putting out new growth. They’re in trouble,” said Oliver. Paul Robertson said that once the hole is spotted, the tree is likely already doomed.
“By the time you see the impact, the insect has already been there four to six years and has moved on to another tree,” said Robertson. He said Sarnia and Windsor were already grappling with the problem, spending millions to safely remove dead ash trees.
“You’re talking an whole urban landscape where the vast majority of the trees are dying,” said Robertson. Government estimates of the potential damage in Canada and the U.S. are not optimistic. There is no reliable method of stopping the spread of the ash borer beetle. While individual trees can be inoculated with pesticide, the cost of $50 to $150 for a single tree means this method can only be used to preserve a relative handful of ash trees. Efforts are underway to control beetle populations with predatory Chinese wasps and fungal infections, but these have yet to stem the spread. For more information on the emerald ash borer, please call the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at 1-866-463-6017. To get involved with the Niagara chapter of the Ontario Woodlot Association, visit http://www.niagarawoodlot.com.