Emerald ash borer prompts vaccinate vs. chop down debate

The mayor of Hampstead said the City of Montreal’s efforts to vaccinate ash trees against the invasive emerald ash borer rather than chop them down is just delaying the inevitable.

Hampstead mayor says chop and replace, but St-Laurent mayor says the TreeAzin vaccine works

The emerald ash borer beetle infests ash trees, eating them from the inside. (CBC)

The City of Montreal’s approach to dealing with the emerald ash borer is all wrong, says Hampstead mayor Bill Steinberg.

He told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Thursday morning that the city’s efforts to vaccinate the trees rather than chop them down is just delaying the inevitable.

“Do you slow things down, or do you save the money and use it for replacing trees?” Steinberg asked.

He said the bio-insecticide the city is using, TreeAzin, doesn’t outright kill the invasive species of beetle wreaking havoc on southern Quebec’s ash trees. On top of that, the insecticide — which is injected under ash trees’ bark to kill insect larvae — can only be used in a small two-month window in the summer.

The city has invested an additional $1.4 million into dealing with the emerald ash borer this year, on top of the $2 million already allotted to the program.

And the method works, said Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa.

He told Daybreak that 1,400 trees in the St-Laurent borough were “vaccinated” last year. He said, of 18 trees that were debarked to check for the effectiveness of the vaccine, 17 had responded positively and didn’t need to be cut down.

DeSousa said Hampstead’s “choice in strategy leaves much to be desired.”

Steinberg said they’re cutting down trees and replacing them on public property, and are encouraging residents to chop down the ash trees on their property as well.

He said the town is looking to pass a bylaw that gives officials the authority to make residents remove trees they deem dangerous — at their own cost.