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Invasive beetle attacking ash trees across North America

The Emerald Ash Borer has now been found in five Canadian provinces, including Nova Scotia
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(stock photo)

The Emerald Ash Borer has now been found in five Canadian provinces, including Nova Scotia.

Ron Neville, a plant health biologist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), says that humans have unwittingly been helping it spread.

"People have been moving infested things like firewood and nursery stock and branches or ash trees from areas where the beetle has been found," Neville tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

The half-inch long, neon green beetle attacks varieties of ash trees under the genus Fraxinus.

According to Neville, this includes white ash and black ash, but not mountain ash.

"When the beetle attacks the tree, it lays eggs on the outside and those larvae feed and they enter the tree," he says.

These larvae hatch and burrow into the tree, causing tunnels under the bark.

"When you get enough of these tunnels, or galleries, under the bark it just prevents that flow of nutrients up and down the tree," says Neville. "And it will kill the tree within a few years."

The Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, is native to China and East Asia, but nature biologists discovered it in North America in 2002.

"Our trees here in North America just haven't adapted, they haven't evolved with this pest, so they really don't have the ability to protect themselves from attacks," Neville says.

First in Michigan and southern Ontario, it has now also been found in Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick.

In the fall of 2018, researchers discovered the bug in DeWolfe Park.

"We haven't found it outside that general area in Bedford," says Neville, but the CFIA is working with municipalities to keep an eye out for the beetle.

The organization is encouraging members of the public to check ash trees on their property for signs of infestation, and to report it to their local CFIA office if they suspect the beetle is present.

"There's a few things that people can look for in their ash trees," Neville says. "If they see cracks in the bark, or galleries underneath the bark of ash trees."

Neville also says woodpeckers are a sign or wood borne insects like the Emerald Ash Borer.

"Woodpeckers really have this ability to find infested trees before we can see them ourselves," he adds.

The CFIA is currently working on methods to prevent the spread of beetles and save infected trees. 

But in the meantime, Neville dissuades homeowners from planting ash trees that could become infected.

"I think all municipalities in the Maritimes are no longer planting ash, and I would discourage people from considering that in their species decisions at this point," he says.

He also encourages people who are moving around the province this summer to be mindful of transporting wood.

"Buy your firewood where you burn it," he says. "Rather than moving wood long distances."




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Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

After graduating from journalism at King's, Victoria Walton now works in the film industry and as HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor.
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