New Brunswick

How the public can help stop the spread of emerald ash borer

New Brunswickers are being asked to keep on the lookout for the dreaded emerald ash borer, an invasive species known to destroy ash trees across North America.

The emerald ash borer was confirmed in Oromocto on Wednesday

The emerald ash borer has killed millions of ash trees across Canada and the United States. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

New Brunswickers are being asked to keep on the lookout for the dreaded emerald ash borer, an invasive species known to destroy ash trees across North America.

The emerald ash borer, a bright, metallic green insect, was confirmed to be in Oromocto, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced on Wednesday.

The pest, which is responsible for the destruction of millions of trees throughout North America, was previously reported in Edmundston, about 300 kilometres north of Oromocto, in May 2018.

"It's the unwanted hitchhiker," said Andrew Holland, a spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

"It gets on logs, trucks, wood chips but also firewood."

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

"It just destroys nature and a lot of important habitats for wildlife and important components of our forests. And that's not a good thing," he said.

What if you spot it?

An emerald ash borer larva is removed from an ash tree in Saugerties, N.Y. The insect feeds off a tree's cambium, effectively cutting off its circulation and eventually killing the tree. (The Associated Press)

Holland said members of the public can report any sightings of the insect to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canadian Forest Service or Natural Resources Canada. They can also use the iNaturalist app, which allows people to record and share their observations from nature with scientists and foresters. 

Despite efforts to limit its spread with quarantines and pesticides, the beetle has already made its way from Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and into the Atlantic provinces.

Individual beetles can travel 400 to 700 metres annually, but the population can spread much farther and faster when it piggybacks on firewood being transported by people.

What does it look like?

The emerald ash borer is present from May until late summer. Holland said the insect lays eggs on the bark of the ash tree. Then, those eggs weave their way inside the ash tree, creating tunnels that vary in shapes including, zigzags and an "S" shape. These tunnels erode the ash tree's ability to feed.

"It just really hurts the nutrients of the tree and gets down in the roots and that's how it really takes hold," he said.

Once the emerald ash borer gets into an area that contains ash tree areas, it can decimate 99 per cent of those trees within five to seven years.

The invasive beetle, which has few enemies to keep it in check, can live beneath the bark of ash trees for more than two years before obvious signs of infection start to show. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Traps have been set across New Brunswick to capture individual insects to help map their spread.

It poses no threat to human health but poses "a major economic and environmental threat to urban and forested areas of North America," the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said. 

What are ash trees used for?

Ash trees are typically found in municipal forests. They are also planted in young forests because they can grow quickly, Holland said.

The wood from ash trees can be used for baseball bats, hockey sticks, Indigenous baskets, snowshoes and electric guitars.

"It's durable, it's beautiful and that's why ash trees are so important," he said.

The Government of Canada estimates it will cost municipalities $2 billion over the next 30 years to treat, remove and replace ash trees infested with the emerald ash borer.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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