Canadian forest researchers say the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle is making its way to Atlantic Canada and City of Fredericton officials say it could wipe out the city’s ash tree population and cause damage to homes.
Industry experts gathered in Fredericton November 7 and 8 to attend the Atlantic Urban Forest Conference, with the Emerald Ash Borer a major topic of conversation.
City of Fredericton Manager of Parks and Trees Don Murray said he and his staff attended the conference to hear about different aspects of the urban forest.
“One of the biggest challenges for us in the very near future will be Emerald Ash Borer coming to town,” Murray said.
Murray said it’s inevitable that it’s making its way east and said the city will need to get out and “start looking harder” for the invasive pests.
“After listening to some of these speakers, and there’s been some real powerful information come out of these sessions, we’re going to have to step up our game a bit on planning for Emerald Ash Borer getting here if it’s not here already,” Murray said.
Murray said there was a complete street tree inventory done over the past two years by University of New Brunswick forestry students. He said 11 per cent of Fredericton’s street tree population is ash, which he said equals about 2,400 trees.
An inventory is currently being done in parks and trails to give a clearer picture of how many ash trees there are in the capital city.
Canadian Forest Service research scientist Krista Ryall said the Emerald Ash Borer kills “extensive numbers of ash trees” when it gets into the area and causes “unprecedented levels of damage”.
“One of the challenges with this insect is it can be there for several years and no signs and symptoms show up until suddenly, or it seems suddenly, the population is very high and the trees start dying, so that’s one of the main challenges with this insect is that you can’t find it early enough,” Ryall said.
Murray said once a municipality recognizes the invasive beetle is in the area, he said it’s likely already been there for three to five years, and said by then most of the damage is already done.
“It’s going to be a struggle,” Murray said. “It’s going to be a challenge for the city and it’s going to be a bit expensive because we do realize that a ‘do-nothing’ program costs more money than a program where we set up or try to control or intervene in Emerald Ash Borer coming to town.”
He said if it does destroy ash trees, the city won’t plant new ones because the pests will keep destroying them.
Murray said part of the city’s program will focus on education. He said there are likely ash trees in residents’ backyards and if the insect strikes it will leave homeowners with dead trees to deal with. Murray said there’s concern regarding trees falling over and injuring people, as well as depreciating property values.
“The numbers we’re seeing for Emerald Ash Borer in municipalities, and it depends on the number of trees you have of course and the size of your municipality, but it can range anywhere from $4 million to $40 million, so that is basically unbudgeted dollars, so we’ve got to work with our council and citizens to figure out the best plan to attack this,” Murray said.
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Ryall said there are traps set up to try to detect the pests using a green trap with a chemical that smells like the leaves of the ash and use a pheromone to catch males in early stages, but said better tools are needed for earlier detection.
Ryall said people need to be aware that the species can often hide in firewood and said people shouldn’t transport wood across provincial lines.
She said it’s important to understand how many ash trees there are and exactly where they’re located and said understanding the inventory, surveying and monitoring and deciding which trees are worth enough to try to save with insecticides and knowing when to cut and remove trees is important.
Ryall said there is a biological control program that involves introducing very tiny wasps that can kill EAB eggs and larva to keep the population at a lower level, but said it’s not a short-term solution but rather something that would have a long-term effect decades down the road.
Murray said the ash provides food for birds and animals, is important in building and woodworking and said in Major League Baseball most bats are made of ash, and if that species of tree dies bats will have to be made out of an alternate type of wood. He also said the loss of ash trees will impact First Nations communities because ash has been a big part of their culture in baskets and food sources.