Al­ready a prob­lem for lo­cal trees, emer­ald ash borer ex­pected to be more of an is­sue

The Woolwich Observer - - CLASSIFIED - FAISAL ALI

THE NA­TIVE ASH TREES of the Water­loo Re­gion are un­likely to get much of a respite this sea­son from the emer­ald ash borer, which has con­tin­ued to dec­i­mate trees across much of the south­west­ern On­tario. Lo­cally, that may mean the col­lapse of much of the ash tree pop­u­la­tion, which has been suf­fer­ing a de­cline for years.

“In the town­ships we’re start­ing to see wood­lots where the ash trees are pretty much all dead or cer­tainly heav­ily in­fected. So we’re see­ing a lot of ash die off,” said Al­bert Hov­ingh, a forester with the Re­gion of Water­loo. “The last five years we’ve been notic­ing it, and then this year it’s fairly se­vere in some ar­eas.”

The prog­no­sis is es­pe­cially grim for the lo­cal trees, as there are few ef­fec­tive mea­sures avail­able to gov­ern­ments to com­bat the spread of the in­va­sive bee­tle species, which also has few nat­u­ral preda­tors to keep its num­bers in check.

“It’s pretty much im­pos­si­ble to kill the ash borer. Just by sheer num­bers, to kill it you have to start us­ing in­sec­ti­cides, and that’s not some­thing you re­ally want to get into,” notes Hov­ingh. “You’d have to be aeri­ally spray­ing wood­lots and cities to do any­thing, and it’s not even sure that that would be very ef­fec­tive at all. So there’s no plan for erad­i­cat­ing the in­sect.”

A costly treat­ment does ex­ist, where sus­cep­ti­ble trees could be in­jected with a nat­u­ral in­sec­ti­cide, but would not be prac­ti­cal to use on a large scale.

In Wool­wich, town­ship re­cre­ation di­rec­tor Ann McArthur noted that the town­ship was look­ing at re­mov­ing the high-risk trees, but was not opt­ing for treat­ment.

“The town­ship has started to as­sess parks, wood­lots and trees ad­ja­cent to trails to iden­tify high risk trees af­fected by the emer­ald ash borer and un­der­tak­ing to have those trees re­moved,” said McArthur.

“The town­ship is not plan­ning to treat any trees in­fected with emer­ald ash borer at this time. We are ed­u­cat­ing, as­sess­ing, plan­ning and tak­ing the nec­es­sary ac­tions to ad­dress ef­fected trees in the later stages of de­cline through a con­trac­tor.”

With few fac­tors keep­ing the bee­tles from mul­ti­ply­ing, they will likely con­tinue to feed on the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion of ash trees un­til they’ve ex­hausted their food sup­ply, af­ter which they would start to die off. How­ever, as new ash trees re­gen­er­ate to re­place the old ones, we could ex­pect to see an­other resur­gence of the ash borer and a re­peat of the process cycli­cally.

“It’s not to­tally cer­tain that the trees will com­pletely dis­ap­pear from the land­scape, but it cer­tainly will be far fewer than there are now,” said Hov­ingh.

While the ash borer may be amongst the most dam­ag­ing in­va­sive species to en­ter the re­gion, others, such as the giant hog­weed and wild parsnips are prov­ing a tough, if more man­age­able chal­lenge.

“Giant hog­weed has been on the radar for sev­eral years, and it’s ac­tu­ally through­out On­tario,” said An­gelo Apfel­baum, man­ager of li­cens­ing and en­force­ment for the re­gion. “If you get the liq­uid from giant hog­weed onto your skin and then its ex­posed to sun­light, it al­most re­acts like a burn. So you can get a third de­gree burn from it.”

“We have enough pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion about giant hog­weed, so it’s un­der con­trol. We’ve seen it’s num­bers re­duced greatly within the Re­gion of Water­loo over the last five years, which is good news,” noted Apfel­baum.

“Its habi­tat ... is wet ar­eas. So near shore­lines, ditches things like. Gen­er­ally in farm fields or along the grand river. So wet ar­eas along ditches near farm fields or along the Grand River. Be­cause it’s a river and giant hog­weed likes mois­ture.”

The hotspots for giant hog­weed in the town­ship are in the Three Bridges area along with parts of Hawkesville, he notes.

Be­cause of the po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing sap pro­duced by giant hog­weed, along with its cousin, the wild turnip, Apfel­baum en­cour­ages peo­ple to take the cor­rect pre­cau­tions be­fore deal­ing with the plants. The giant hog­weed, how­ever, be­cause of its size – up to five me­tres in height – is best dealt with by the re­gion or other pro­fes­sion­als.

“[It’s] just about the only weed we en­cour­age you to call some­one that can ap­ply a her­bi­cide to it to kill it,” he said. “The fact that you have to get close to it, you have to dig it out, and that means you run the risk of get­ting ex­po­sure to liq­uid that comes out of it.

“If you are in­tent on do­ing it, make sure you wear some­thing: cover your face, cover your eyes, cover your skin, gloves etcetera,” he added.

[COURTESY USDA APHIS | DR. JAMES ZABLOTNY]

A close-up of the Emer­ald Ash Borer.

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