The emerald ash borer is a tiny, bottle-green beetle with a big appetite -- and it's been chomping its way through southern Ontario's ash tree population for the past 20 years.
But recently, one community began fighting back.
On Tuesday, the Town of Oakville launched its Canopy Club, a program that encourages residents to get involved in the battle against emerald ash borer.
“Up until recently, emerald ash borer had taken on this urban myth that it's unstoppable, that the only approach is to cut down your ash tree,” said John McNeil, manager of forestry services for the Town of Oakville. “That myth has been busted. There are effective alternatives and they include treatment.”
The emerald ash borer was first detected in Ontario in 2002, but it most likely arrived in cargo from Asia in the 1990s. It feeds on all species of ash trees, tunnelling under the bark of the tree all winter before emerging in the summer to feed on the leaves.
Because the emerald ash borer is not native to North America, it has no natural predators, so it has spread across Ontario, the northern United States and recently, even into Quebec.
The insect was first detected in Oakville in 2008. Town officials sprang into action, drawing up a map of the beetles' whereabouts in the town and completing an inventory of all the ash trees in the town's streets and parks.
The town also contacted Sault St. Marie-based BioForest Technologies Inc., which has developed a kind of tree vaccination to protect ash trees from the emerald ash borer.
The treatment, TreeAzin, is injected beneath the bark of the tree, and the tree does the rest of the work, said Joe Meating, president of BioForest Technologies.
“We have a pre-determined dose that we inject under the bark. (The tree) just moves the material around so the beetle ... will come in contact with it -- and that's not a good thing for them,” he explained.
So far more than 2,000 of Oakville's ash trees have been treated with TreeAzin, and most are doing well, Meating said.
The town would like to treat and protect more trees. However, about 80 per cent of Oakville's treatable ash canopy -- some 44,000 trees -- is located on private property. That's where the Canopy Club comes in.
“We want to actively engage the residents of Oakville, who can see the example that we're setting on our own trees,” McNeil said. “There is an alternative to removal, and that is treatment, but I would stress that you need to do one of the two, because the emerald ash borer will make that choice for you if you fail to be proactive.”
For more information about the Canopy Club, visit the Town of Oakville's website.