LAID WASTE: emerald ash borer a looming threat

A concerted effort will be necessary to preserve ash trees that shelter homes and fields

A village council in Manitoba’s Interlake thinks it’s a good idea to prevent an invasive insect from destroying local trees.

Dunnottar just doesn’t know what it would do if emerald ash borer (EAB) chews its way into town.

“We’ve sort of been aware of it,” said Village of Dunnottar Mayor Rick Gamble. “But we’re not as knowledgeable as we should be or could be.”

That may be the case elsewhere in rural Manitoba, too.

The highly destructive beetle, which attacks and kills all species of ash, was detected in Winnipeg last December. The bug is on a slow invasive march across North America destroying millions of trees in its wake and has infested parts of Ontario and Quebec.

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But the potential threat it poses to destroy large swaths of communities’ trees is only just starting to garner public attention — and get on local government agendas.

Louise Buelow-Smith, a retired nurse who owns a cottage in Dunnottar, recently urged her local council to start taking the threat of EAB seriously and get a plan in place to ward off the worst damages it could cause.

Places like the City of Morden have already done ash tree inventories and adopted 10-year strategies to manage for EAB and make the city’s tree canopy more resilient.

Buelow-Smith told Dunnottar council the potential loss of large swathes of local trees can’t remain a low priority for smaller places like theirs either.

A piecemeal approach among municipalities won’t be effective either, she said.

“I would like to see local governments working together on this,” she said. “There’s never been a stronger need for co-operation and to get the message out about what this could possibly mean.

“Emerald ash borers don’t pay attention to municipalities’ boundaries.”

After confirming its presence in Winnipeg the CFIA declared the entire city a regulated area, meaning all species of firewood as well as any other ash materials such as branches, wood chips, or ash nursery stock is prohibited to prevent the spread of potentially infested material.

The objective is to slow the spread beyond the perimeter, say CFIA officials.

“It’s hard to put a timeline to it but it’s very likely to spread through Manitoba,” said Jason Watts, CFIA’s regional program officer for Manitoba.

The posting of signs with public awareness messages ‘Don’t Move Firewood’ is part of the province’s Emerald Ash Borer Response Plan released in April of 2017.

That plan called for stepped-up surveillance and investigations, in the event of detection of EAB here, plus public education and notification and support to local governments, including hosting three EAB training sessions for municipal officials to attend to hear about management strategies, detection techniques and conducting tree inventories.

So far, participants from 15 communities have attended the sessions, and similar training has been conducted for weed supervisors.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) is also trying to get the word out and urge members to attend these training sessions, a spokesman said.

Gamble said Dunnottar hasn’t gone to any. But Buelow-Smith’s presentation makes him at least think they probably should start making this a priority, he added.

“I’m just not really sure how others (council members) feel about it,” he said.

“We’re innundated with a lot of things. We’re losing a lot of spruce trees to disease too. I can see them affected in my neighbour’s yard across the street.”

The ash trees of Dunnottar are mostly in wooded areas, or on private properties surrounding summer homes along the lakeshore.

Elsewhere, in most towns and cities in Manitoba and right across the Prairies, ash trees often line both residential and commercial streets.

Farm shelterbelts are also predominantly ash, and ash is abundant in natural wooded areas.

If it spreads outside Winnipeg, some may not know what’s hit them until it’s too late.

It is difficult to detect EAB at low population levels and signs of infestation usually only become apparent once a tree is already heavily infested, according to CFIA data sheets.

The signs include the loss of green colour in the uppermost leaves (chlorosis) and thinning and dieback of the crown of the tree. Eventually, as more of the crown dies back the tree branches can break off or trees can even topple over making them a potential hazard.

In Canada, beginning in late May and early June adults of the emerald ash borer emerge by chewing out through the bark of the host tree, creating a characteristic D-shaped hole.

A provincial spokesperson said staff will continue to conduct more EAB training sessions for interested municipalities as well as reach out to provide some training on conducting tree inventories.

If a community suspects it has EAB it should contact the Tree Line by calling 204-945-7866 or it can report the information to the CFIA 204-259-1400 and either the province or the CFIA will follow up on the suspect tree.

If EAB is confirmed in additional communities, the province will work with the CFIA and the affected community to survey and provide guidance.

Additionally, the province’s Dutch Elm Disease and Urban Forest Management Program, which includes Community Forest Grant Agreements with 38 communities, has been broadened to support a variety of urban forestry initiatives such as planting a variety of tree species and EAB trapping.

Currently the province is placing 140 EAB traps in high-risk areas across Manitoba. This includes provincial parks, private campgrounds and some municipalities and communities.


How to recognize a sick tree with emerald ash borer. Visual signs include:

  • Thinning and dieback of tree crowns;
  • Vertical cracks;
  • Woodpecker damage caused by woodpeckers seeking larvae;
  • Shoot development on lower portions of tree as it attempts to survive;
  • D-shaped exit holes caused by the emergence of adult EABs.

Source: Province of Manitoba

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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