The emerald ash borer is continuing its spread across the region.
“We are starting to see exit holes in the trees in areas we hadn’t seen them before so that tells us the pest is there,” Donna Lacey, forestry technician at the Saugeen Conservation Authority, said Thursday. “In some cases people are actually catching the insect.”
Lacey explained that in the past people had brought other insects they thought were ash borers such as six-spotted tiger beetles and click beetles, which have similarities to emerald ash borers, including their shiny emerald colour. That has changed this year.
“Previous to this year I had a lot of not emerald ash borers caught, but now we are starting to see people find a true emerald ash borer,” she said. “That is disappointing.”
The emerald ash borer, native to Asia, was first confirmed in Bruce County in the Lucknow area about four years ago. Lacey said since then it has been found along many shoreline areas of the watershed, which covers much of southern Grey and Bruce counties.
“This year the Bruce County populations have expanded from the shoreline more inland and in a few more areas,” said Lacey. “In Grey County there isn’t anything really noticed yet.”
Grey Sauble Conservation Authority forestry technician Cam Bennett said it is early in the season to tell if the insects have spread to any new areas of their watershed, which covers the northern area of Grey County and central Bruce County.
In the past the insect has been found south of Meaford, at Springmount and near Sauble Beach.
“It seems like every year one or two more spots pop up,” said Bennett. “We had a few more finds last year.”
The City of Owen Sound has been keeping a close eye on its ash trees and so far hasn’t found any evidence of the pest in the city.
“We haven’t got any calls from any residents that are concerned,” said said parks supervisor Michelle Draper. “We haven’t noticed anything and our arborist hasn’t noticed anything.”
Last year the city wrapped up an inventory of the trees on its road allowances, with plans to treat some select ash trees with a natural chemical injection that protects them from the insect.
“We are working towards getting a tender out for treatment and selecting our trees for treatment this year,” said Draper. “We hope to get that done in the next few months.”
Lacey said it is coming to the time of the year where they can get a good sense of where the insect has been and where it is going, as infected trees are most visible due to their lack of leaves and the adult insects are beginning to exit the trees.
“They are in the trees as larvae underneath the bark, which is very difficult to tell because they are under the bark,” said Lacey. “Once they start flying out and about as adults then we can catch them in traps.”
She expects more sightings of the insects in some new areas in the coming weeks.
“Everything is just starting now so we will get more calls and we will start noticing things ourselves,” said Lacey. “We will probably find a few more locations.”
Lacey said the destruction to the ash is becoming more noticeable in the region.
“Even people who don’t typically look at trees are starting to notice a bunch of dead trees,” said Lacey. “That might be the one good thing is people are starting to talk more about trees and maybe appreciate them a little bit more.”
On Thursday, the Emerald Ash Borer Working Group for Grey and Bruce counties made a plea to the public to refrain from moving firewood.
The working group, made up of the Saugeen Valley and Grey Sauble conservation authorities, Grey and Bruce counties, City of Owen Sound, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Park Canada, has been working to create public awareness about the insect and to monitor its movement, through a Bruce Power-sponsored trapping program.
“We are trying to spread the word as camping season is here now and people are moving wood,” said Lacey. “If we can catch them when they are doing it and thinking about it we have a better chance of success.”
Lacey said there is no way of completely stopping the insect’s spread, but by slowing it as much as possible it gives officials, communities and the public some time to prepare.
“We are going to delay and slow it down by stopping the moving of firewood, which will give homeowners a chance to deal with the ash they have,” said Lacey. “Whether they are going to plan to replant and then remove the tree when they have to, or pay to have it inoculated, it just gives them time to budget.”
Lacey said the inoculation service, provided by the conservation authority, costs on average about $300 and is believed to be about 80 per cent effective.
“I have seen trees that I have treated survived when trees next to them have died of infestation,” said Lacey.
There are other diseases that kill ash as well, Lacey explained, but the ash borer is the one that humans are spreading.
“Ash trees are very susceptible to weather changes and this year being very hot and very dry that puts the trees under stress,” said Lacey. “A tree under stress has a tougher time fighting off insects and disease.”
Bennett said by slowing the ash borer’s spread they can hopefully buy the time needed to develop other ways of protecting the trees.
“It will hopefully allow nature to sort of try to catch up and our forests and trees to develop some resistance,” said Bennett. “As well, there are a number of different organizations working on a number of different things like parasitic wasps and other types of bio controls, but that all takes time as well.”