OSHAWA — An invasive species is destroying Oshawa’s ash trees at a much faster pace than initially anticipated and the City must spend tens of thousands of dollars dealing with the problem.
The emerald ash borer is a small beetle native to Asia and east Russia, first detected in North America in 2002. Since then it has gone on to destroy more than 100 million ash trees and was detected in the GTA about four years ago.
Oshawa staff had predicted that the pests would destroy almost all of the City’s ash trees with a sharp increase in tree deaths five years from now.
But after hearing about increased infestation in Whitby, staff investigated in Oshawa and found the problem is coming earlier than expected, with a sharp increase in tree deaths expected to start this year.
“With warmer weather we believe the species has infested to a greater degree and it’s accelerating it significantly,” said Jag Sharma, commissioner of community services for Oshawa.
By 2019, almost 100 per cent of Oshawa ash trees will be killed by the bug.
“It can be devastating to the city, there’s many examples in the U.S. on how big the impact has been not only to the streetscape, but to canopies,” he added.
In Oshawa, Lakeview Park alone has about 600 ash trees and there are streets in the city that are lined with rows of ash trees, which would mean the majority of the streetscape would be affected.
Oshawa has identified an infested area near the Whitby border, south of the airport and north of Hwy. 401, but Mr. Sharma said it will ultimately spread to the rest of the city.
There are more than 1,500 ash trees on streets and in parks and wood lots in the infested area and the City is predicting the beetle will eliminate the entire Durham Court Park woodlot.
City staff are asking council to approve $150,000 in funding to deal with problem, which will pay for an insecticide called TreeAzin, which is an effective treatment. Originally the City had only planned to spend $10,000 on emerald ash borer management this year.
Trees that are cut down will have to be stored and wrapped up until the Region of Durham has a plan to deal with the waste.
Mr. Sharma points out that leaving dying trees can be a safety hazard as they’re more likely to fall during storms.
The City is holding a public information session for residents on April 4 so they can get their questions answered on what to do if they have an ash tree. Resident can visit Room 5 at the Civic Recreation Complex, 99 Thornton Rd. S., between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. for information.