The Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive insect that attacks Ash trees and it is a big concern.
“Ash wood is used to make various tools, handles, baseball and softball bats and bows. It also makes very good firewood. Ash trees are also perfect material for old fashion shafts for bow and arrows.” Source: Ash tree, Wiki. However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) clearly specified the importance of the tree as follows, “Ash trees are an important part of Canada’s urban and rural landscape. They are commonly found on city streets, in woodlots, in windbreaks and in forests across southern Canada. In many areas of western Canada, ash trees are one of the few suitable for planting in urban areas.” Remember that, “landscape.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), from what I gather, educates on control of Emerald Ash Borer, as well as regulates the movement of wood especially potentially infested Ash wood. So don’t move any firewood from place to place because you could face substantial fines. Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right places, but I could not find any information that CFIA supports treatment of infested Ash trees with pesticides of this native to China and Eastern Asia species. Yes, they arrived from other geographical locations and their predators were left behind.
So one bug (Emerald Ash Borer) arrived in Aurora in the summer of 2011 and at that time the Town had an inventory of approximately 2,700 Ash trees and hundreds more on the Town’s open space and wooded lands. Note, that darn emerald thing can “fly up to 10 kilometers,” the good news is that it “does not stray from the immediate area when it emerges.”
An Emerald Ash Borer management treatment plan in Town was introduced a couple of years afterwards, in 2013, the same year the Town reported just a little over 100 Ashes died during the winter 2013 ice storm. Not going into cost details of the treatment, but over a 10-15 year cycle the costs were estimated in the millions. Removal and replacement was determined not to be an option since it would be more costly. TreeAzin, a biologic, low toxicity pesticide product was chosen. Healthy Ash trees would be treated. Looks like a preventative method to me. Recently, there were potential changes to the TreeAzin treatment schedule and costs of the program were on the rise.
In 2015 the Town recommended, and the majority of Town Council approved, a new pesticide IMA-jet that contains the chemical compound “Imidacloprid” a highly toxic element to Emerald Ash Borer larvae. However, in the recommendations Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan Update (PDF) from June 2nd, 2015 it was also written that, “IMA-JET is from the Neonicotinoid family of pesticides and is currently the subject of controversy in the agricultural and Apicultural [technical term for beekeeping] industry as it has been linked to the decline of Honey Bee colonies in some parts of the province.” Is that right? Looks like we have an issue with the food chain.
The Ash Emerald Borer is new to the country and so are the treatments perhaps, therefore, what do you think? In my humble opinion, perhaps these treatments should still be classified as experimental treatments for control of the Emerald Ash Borer. What evidence do we have that they are effective and safe? Well, we will have to wait 10-15 years to find out, after our trees are saturated with pesticides. The Town claims that since the IMA-jet treatment uses an injection method there is no risk to Bees. The TreeAzin treatment was also injected to Ash Trees. The Town sounds like they have been provided with some expert knowledge in this area; but I wouldn’t be so confident.
So here are my concerns and comments. We let builders remove and shred healthy trees, many trees, and only sometimes ask for replacement. So why the sudden worry about declining Ash trees. The treatment may have an impact on Honey Bees, controversy for now but I believe that the controversy is real. To add, my concern is that we are injecting these trees with concentrated chemicals over and over again. What happens to the tree when injected with the pesticide over and over again? Chemicals do not mysteriously disappear. They have to go somewhere, or will reside in the tree. In the long run the water movement within the tree will push the pesticide out, the leaves and branches fall to the ground, residuals will be in the soil and can leach into our water system perhaps? Again, chemicals do not disappear mysteriously, even if they evaporate or transform that isn’t good either. Note that pesticides can potentially enter the food chain of bark foraging birds (Woodpecker, Nuthatch) as they are known to feed on the Emerald Ash Borer.
I read some more about natural predators as alternatives to pesticides. However, I am not sure I want to experience an infestation similar to what we had many years ago, when a new family of Lady Bugs was released to prey on Aphids. So much for introducing predators that multiply fast and out-number their own predator and get out of control. I think the wrong Lady Bug was introduced in the first place, and somehow someone forgot about those nasty Fruit Fly experiments we had in high school. Yes, I am against “bug wars.” Not for me. By the way those Lady Bugs were found to bite humans.
However, it looks like after all we may have some “bug wars“, “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has approved two species of wasps from China as the first biological control agents for use in Canada in an attempt to control the spread of the emerald ash borer (EAB), which has been destroying Canada’s ash trees. EAB is not native to Canada and has few natural enemies here.” Source: “Wasps as biological control agents for Emerald Ash Borers.” Two treatments running in parallel. Young wasps feed on the host larvae, killing the Emerald Ash Borer larvae. Add pesticide to this scenario and might we be killing both?
I think the solution may be simple if we just let nature take its course. Eventually if the food source would decline so too would the population of the Emerald Ash Borer. Let them die-out naturally and seek cost effective methods to remove those trees from the property. Continue with education and regulations supported by CFIA or other agencies. I think its important to note that most of our neighbouring municipalities have chosen to not treat their Ash trees with such pesticides. So if all municipalities are not following the same treatment strategy then how can we expect the infestation to be eliminated or even controlled? Perhaps this may be one of those times when Aurora should follow Markham, King, Richmond Hill, Vaughan rather than trying to take the lead without a clear assessment of all the risks. We learned how to accept Dandelions. They bloom throughout the Town every year, and rarely does anyone complain about them anymore. In the worst case, we should ask ourselves if another 2,000 dead trees in Town would even be noticed compared to all the trees cut down and cleared for developments.
Trees die every day, from Emerald Ash Borer infestation, other infestations, bad weather and chopped by us. New trees sprout every day. Not all survive. We are lucky that the Emerald Ash Borer attacks only one type of tree species, Ash Trees. And if we were to do something, I am only in favour of traps. The decline of Ash Trees may be a better choice compared to the potential decline of the Honey Bee population that affects our food chain down the road and the potential damage to our water systems from chemicals that cannot be treated in the treatment facilities. Something to think about.
So here is my perspective on social responsibility, stop using pesticides on healthy Ash trees. Let nature take its course. Again, with a declined population of Ash Trees, the Emerald Ash Borer population will likely decline. From fallen seeds, trees will rise again. That’s what I think.
Anna Lozyk Romeo, Editor’s Notes
Copyright 2015 Anna Lozyk Romeo / community FOCUS LivingInAurora.com