Montreal to offer residents up to $4K to treat ash trees against bug infestation

Emerald ash borer beetles, a tiny but destructive bug, have infected thousands of trees across Montreal. The city now plans to offer property owners more financial aid to treat their trees in an effort to contain the infestation.

Tiny but destructive emerald ash borer beetles have infected thousands of trees across Montreal

This ash tree in NDG is infested with emerald ash borer beetles, which eat the trees from the inside. (CBC)

Do you have an ash tree on your property?

The city will soon offer Montrealers more money to protect their trees from emerald ash borers, as it tries to stem an insect infestation that has spread across the entire island.

As of June 25, Montreal will offer property owners in all parts of the city up to $4,000 to treat their infected ash trees over a two-year period.

That's double the financial aid the city previously offered residents to deal with the problem.

A tiny but destructive beetle, the emerald ash borer infects and eats ash trees from the inside.

"If you're a private owner, you own an ash tree on your property, you should intervene very quickly," said Philippe Sabourin, a spokesperson for the City of Montreal.

The total cost per property depends on the trees' diameter and the number that need to be treated, the city says.

The city will cover at least 66 per cent of the costs to treat the trees, or up to $4 per centimetre of a tree's diameter.

The trees will be sprayed with a pesticide called TreeAzin, Sabourin told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Insects difficult to detect

Native to Asia, the emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in North America since it was first detected here in 2002, according to Natural Resources Canada.

Ash trees have limited resistance to stave off the insects, which can kill groups of trees within one to four years of infestation.

Of the more than 10,000 ash trees in Mount Royal Park, two-thirds have been treated against the invasive insect, the city said in January.

The rest of the trees in the park will need to be cut down by March 2019, it said.

Jim Fyles, a McGill University professor of forest ecology and director of the Morgan Arboretum, said it's difficult to detect the tiny bugs.

"It starts in the canopy of the tree, where the foliage is, and the very small branches," Fyles told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

"Once it's established there, it can work down and cover the whole tree."

A beetle that is native to Asia, the emerald ash borer was first detected in Canada in 2002 in Windsor, Ont., according to Natural Resources Canada. (David Cappaert, Michigan State University)

An ash tree will begin to lose foliage and look sick when it's infected with the insects, Fyles said, and it's time to cut it down once it has lost about half of its foliage.

Fyles said the city's offer of greater financial aid to treat infected trees "is a pretty good incentive to get people to actually act on this problem that we have."

City plans to plant 40,000 new trees

Montreal has already treated 60,000 ash trees on public property against the insects, said Sabourin.

The city also plans to replant 10 trees for each ash tree that will be lost, he said, and it plans to plant about 40,000 new trees across the city.

Sabourin said treating their ash trees will give property owners time to plant their own replacements, should the ash trees eventually need to be cut down.

He advised residents to contact a contractor as of June 25 to take advantage of the city's offer. They can then apply for a refund under the new guidelines.

More information about the city's response to the emerald ash borer infestation is available on its website.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak