London

City arborists remove hundreds of pine trees, sawyer beetle suspected

City arborists have cut down about 200 pine trees in the last two years in parks including Spring Bank, Kiwanis, Basil Grover and Labatt – pointing a finger toward the pine sawyer beetle
Jill-Anne Spence, city's urban forestry manager, said the city's pine trees could be dying for reasons beyond the pine sawyer beetle. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Imad Borhot noticed something was missing when he visited his favourite west-end park. 

"I always used to sit under the tree but I can't sit under it anymore," said the eight-year-old Borhot, who has had to find a new spot at Basil Grover Park.

City arborists have cut down about 200 dead pine trees in the last two years in city parks.

Officials suspect the pine sawyer beetle could be killing the trees. 

The black insect with long antennae is native to the London area and has been on the city's radar since 2015.

City arborists have cut down about 200 dead pine trees in the last two years in city parks.

John Parsons, London's manager of transportation and roadside operations, oversees the city's forestry operations. He said about 15 arborists are out looking for pine trees showing obvious signs of ill health.

"They would be pale coloured and the bark would be coming off the tree," he said. "A coniferous tree is typical green. It's not green. It's dead and dying and grey."

Jill-Anne Spence said the city is reviewing the situation.

The urban planning manager suggested London's pine trees could be dying for reasons beyond the pine sawyer beetle.

"It's never just one thing that causes a tree to decline and die," she said. "It's normally a combination of events like older trees not getting enough water or over time it starts to decline because it's impacted by pests and diseases."

The distribution of pine trees plotted in the city. There are about 170,000 pine trees located in the city's public tree inventory database. (Jacques Marcoux/CBC)

There are currently about 5,000 pine trees growing along city streets and sidewalks. Parsons said that number is only a sliver compared to the number of trees in city parks and green spaces.

Although the pine sawyer beetle is a concern for the city, the pine tree isn't among London's most popular. In fact the Buckthorn, Eastern White Cedar, Maple and Ash are more commonly spotted among the city's 4.4 million trees.

The city removes about 1,500 trees of all types every year due to poor health and plants nearly 5,000.

Londoners can contact the city if they observe a dead tree on public property.