An invasive beetle that has been destroying ash trees in North America for almost 20 years has been spotted in Oromocto, N.B.
The emerald ash borer is a small green beetle that has no natural predators in North America and has steadily spread throughout Canada and the United States since it first appeared in 2002. It was first seen in New Brunswick in Edmunston last year.
“When it does get established in an area it decimates, within seven years roughly, it decimates 99 per cent of the ash trees in the area, once it gets established. That’s why it’s a big problem,” said Andrew Holland, a spokesperson with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).
The town of Oromocto says that they are still early in the discovery phase and that they’re unsure of the extent of the infestation. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be conducting a site survey early next week, at which point they will have a better idea of the size of the infestation.
“The property where the insect was found was placed under prohibitive movement. So ash material on that property cannot move and next week we’ll go and do a visual search and look at the trees in that neighbourhood to see how extensive the infestation is,” said Mirielle Marcotte, the national manager of the plant health surveillance unit for the CFIA.
The NCC is warning New Brunswickers to avoid transporting firewood, which is one of the main ways the beetle is able to move around the country.
“The problem is, this beetle is a hitchhiker, it only travels 400 metres on its own during the year. The way it travels is on the back of logs, on wood chips and big logging trucks and the transportation of firewood,” Holland said.
“If you’re going out to have a campfire please buy your firewood locally, close to your destination and burn it there. If you don’t burn all the wood, leave it there because by transporting it in the back of the vehicle back to wherever you live, you could unknowingly or unintentionally be spreading this beetle.”
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Nearby Fredericton is particularly worried about the advance of the beetle due to the large concentration of ash trees in the city. Holland says the ash is an extremely popular urban tree because of how fast it grows.
“Different communities plant ash trees because they do grow quickly. That’s one thing municipalities are going to have to get their heads around, is maybe planting more birch and maple trees that are more tolerant and resilient so that way there’s a variety of trees around,” he said.