Simcoe County Forestry has launched a communications campaign to educate residents, municipalities and stakeholders about steps they can take to protect their ash trees against the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB).

The EAB is a wood-boring beetle typically eight to 14 millimetres long. It is bright metallic green with a coppery-reddish or purple colour to the abdomen. The insect attacks and kills emerald ash trees. It attacks all true ash trees, including white, black and green ash (mountain ash is not a host for EAB) and kills more than 99% of infected trees. The EAB was first discovered in Simcoe County in 2013. Simcoe County Forestry confirmed by 2014, EAB had been found in nearly half of the municipalities in the county.

“This is a costly issue for property owners, including municipalities, and will have a negative impact on our environment and forests,” said Graeme Davis, county forester. “It is important that we take proactive measures to educate residents about treatment options so that they can make informed decisions before it is too late.”

Simcoe County Forestry is setting traps in strategic locations throughout the county this spring to continue monitoring the spread of EAB. Reports will be presented to county council and member municipalities later this summer. As part of the communications strategy, the county will distribute educational materials to area municipalities and businesses, placing ads in regional media, posting information through social media and recently launched a new webpage,

“The county manages over 32,000 acres of forests throughout the region, making it one of the largest forests in Ontario,” said Warden Gerry Marshall. “Protecting our vital forests and environment is one of our key goals. We look forward to working with residents and area partners to communicate and implement treatment strategies.”

The larvae of the EAB feed on the living tissue below the bark of an ash tree, called the cambium. These feeding cavities stop the flow of nutrients and water in the tree, causing crown die back, epicormic shoots, peeling bark and death in sometimes as little as one to two years.

It is the responsibility of landowners to manage or remove trees on their own properties. Most landowners will face two choices when considering the future of an ash tree. The tree can usually be given protection against the insect by treating with a pesticide. Otherwise, trees that are not protected will eventually die and need to be removed.

There are several pesticides available to treat ash trees and increase survival. Trees can only be treated during growing season (late spring to late summer). The treatment of ash trees can be a financially sound option for many landowners who want to maintain landscape trees when considering the many benefits and values of the trees, including esthetics, home heating and cooling, land-value appreciation and privacy. If trees are not treated to help protect against the insect, they can die quickly and become a safety hazard.