How to save urban trees in Okanagan, Kamloops from destructive, invasive beetle | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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How to save urban trees in Okanagan, Kamloops from destructive, invasive beetle

The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle spread through transportation of firewood.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Wikimedia Commons/ Susan Greenhouse

Ash trees growing in urban areas and gardens in Kamloops and the Okanagan provide beauty and much needed shade, but they can be destroyed by an invasive beetle just recently found in the province.

Earlier this spring, authorities confirmed an emerald ash borer was found in Vancouver, prompting warnings to the public from the Invasive Species Council of BC to help prevent it spreading further.

“It’s highly suspected the beetles were transported in firewood or wooden pallets, but there is no way of knowing for sure,” the council's executive director Gail Wallin said.

There isn’t a native population of ash trees in BC but it’s a common urban tree planted in cities including in Kamloops and the Okanagan. The trees are beneficial for a number of reasons and preventative measures can be taken to protect them.

“They help cool us, provide habitat and absorb water,” Wallin said. “They play an important role in our communities and if they have to be taken out, they’ll need to be replaced and you’ll have a lag time recovering the cooling canopy.” 

Emerald ash borer are beetles native to East Asia, and have destroyed millions of ash trees used in urban spaces and forests since first appearing in eastern Canada and the eastern United States in 2002.  

The beetles are small, just over a centimetre in length and can be identified by their metallic green bodies. Larva hatch and feed on the sapwood of ash trees eventually killing them.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle.
The emerald ash borer is an invasive beetle.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Wikimedia Commons/ US Department of Agriculture

The main mode of transport for the beetles is in firewood. The council encourages a buy local, burn local approach. Wood-infesting invasive species can be transported long distances in firewood, and once moved into new areas can become established and damage local trees. 

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“You need to be super responsible to not move firewood,” Wallin said. “Get it locally so you’re not taking the risk of moving the beetle or other invasive species.”

Infected ash trees have thinning crowns, yellowing leaves and vertical cracks in the bark. They have to be chopped down and replaced, or inoculated with an insecticide every three years.

In 2016, Kamloops had roughly 1000 ash trees growing in the city and “far fewer than that in Kelowna,” Wallin said, adding there's no way of knowing how many of the trees are growing on residential properties in the Okanagan and Kamloops as the ash is a commonly planted species. 

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The emerald ash borer found in Vancouver was confirmed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in May. Property owners in the area were given notice that movement of ash tree materials is restricted.

“We know it’s in Vancouver and they’re still measuring the impact of it there, so let’s stop it before it gets here,” Wallin said.

Residents can help prevent the spread of the beetle into the BC Interior by not moving firewood, regularly monitoring ash trees in the neighbourhood for signs of infestation and reporting detections of the pest to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Tunnels from the emerald ash borer larvae are seen under the bark of a tree.
Tunnels from the emerald ash borer larvae are seen under the bark of a tree.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Troy Kimoto

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