Emerald Ash Borer Update from Canada

Photo courtesy US Forest Service

In mid-December, a delegation from the Vermont Forestry Division and the Agency of Agriculture traveled to Quebec to meet with emerald ash borer (EAB) specialists immersed in the Carignan infestation – Carignan’s a town southeast of Montreal. The group visited an infested stand, a municipal garage that receives tree waste, and some firewood dealers. State Forest Health Coordinator Barbara Burns wrote up a report on the trip that contained some interesting, if depressing, information.

Burns reports that the Canadian government has taken a number of pro-active steps to slow human-caused spread of the insect. They’re trying to police the movement of wood out of the quarantine area; they’re working to develop receiving facilities in the area that are set up to process potentially infested ash; they have a firewood inspection program designed to make sure firewood has no ash in it.

But there’s definitely a you-can-slow-it-but-not-contain-it undercurrent that pervades the report. Burns says that it’s nearly impossible to detect signs of the insect in a lightly infested stand. And once the bug is established, it spreads quickly. While Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) battles in the US effectively utilize slash and burn techniques whereby infested trees are flagged and destroyed, in Carignan, no trees infested with emerald ash borer are being cut. Burns writes: “No attempt is being made to eradicate or isolate the infestation … because this has never worked.” She points out, bluntly, that eradication efforts have been tried repeatedly in the US and Canada and every one has failed. She cites one noteworthy example where, in 2004, a 10-km wide host-free ‘firewall’ was created in Ontario by cutting all ash trees along the eastern edge of the quarantine zone, between Lakes Erie and St. Clair. About 100,000 healthy trees were destroyed. Infested trees were found at a number of sites east of the firewall later that year.

It seems that if there’s any chance to stop this bug, it’s going to have to involve biological control. And the realist in me feels powerless, and a touch foolish, even composing that sentence.

In the meantime, non-scientists like you and me wait and watch as the bug continues to make inroads into the Northern Forest. The one thing we can do is keep banging the drum: don’t move firewood. Don’t move firewood. Don’t move firewood.

  1. Carolyn Haley → in East Wallingford, VT
    Jan 08, 2010

    Dave closed by saying:

    “The one thing we can do is keep banging the drum: don’t move firewood. Don’t move firewood. Don’t move firewood.”

    To which I’d like to add: This is sort of like preaching to the choir. There’s an audience outside Northern Woodlands and concerned forest people that remains clueless and apathetic, and hauls local wood out of the area without a thought. They need to be reached through wider media campaigns and policing at the parks and campgrounds in all vulnerable states.

    I was appalled several times last summer seeing people coming into Vermont and the Adirondacks with firewood stuffed in their rigs as part of their supplies for vacation. Since most, if not all, parks and campgrounds require visitors to check in through a kiosk, that would be a good time to look over vehicles and trailers. It would create an invasion of privacy uproar, of course, but that could be somewhat mitigated by posting signs at the entrances and restrooms, and on websites and in brochures, announcing that the parks will be doing this, so people will learn in advance.

  2. Robert Lavallee → in Quebec CANADA
    Jan 12, 2010

    The author is taking about a mid-December (2008 or 2009?) visit in the Carigan area with specialists.  Citing Barbara Burns report it is said that “no attempts is being made to eradicate or isolate the infestation”.  This is not exactly true because in March 2009, following a collaborative partnership between 3 provincial department (Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la faune du Quebec was the lead agency), the Canadian Forest Service, the Institut national de la Recherche Scientifique and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) , more than 150 suspect or infested ash trees have been cut-chipped-and burned in the Carignan area.  Even though, cutting infested trees is not considered by the CFIA as a way to eradicate the EAB, the previously cited collaborators believed that it could slow the spread of this insect and moreover give access to the biological material to support scientific research.  Actually we are working on the use of fungi to develop a biological control method against the EAB.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

    Truly, Robert Lavallee, Entomologist for Canadian Forest Service

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