Jewel-like bugs could destroy Toronto’s ash trees this summer

Jewel-like bugs could destroy Toronto’s ash trees this summer

Emerald ash borer: Charlie Sheen’s not the only destructive force coming to Toronto (Image: USDA) 

Toronto may have narrowly escaped snowpocalypse this winter, but the city is now facing a summer threat: an invasion of the city’s ash trees by the emerald ash borer beetle (or, if you prefer, “ashpocalypse”). According to OpenFile, the pretty penny-sized bugs have been devastating trees in southwestern Ontario for a while now and made their way to Toronto in 2007—flourishing mostly among the concentrations of ash trees in the northern and eastern parts of the city. So is ashpocalypse as over-hyped as snowpocalypse? Toronto’s Parks and Environment Committee doesn’t think so; it recommended the city set aside $1.139 million to deal with the infestation, a proposal that’s being debated by city council today. 

Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee, councillor Norm Kelly, says its possible that the nearly 160,000 ash trees in Toronto could be gone within the decade if the city doesn’t deal with the brooch-esque borers. The critters originate in Asia and were probably brought to North America in poorly treated wooden packaging. While adult beetles nibble on ash leaves, their larvae burrow and feed beneath the tree’s bark, disrupting water and nutrient flow throughout the tree and eventually killing it. Once a tree is infested, there’s little choice but to cut it down.

One preventative measure against the infestation is injecting TreeAzin, a pesticide made from a naturally occurring compound, which provides some protection against the beetle. This type of treatment costs $300-$400 per tree and has to be repeated every two years. “We need to either find a pot of money from our own resources or get the federal government engaged to pay for some advertising,” city councillor Paul Ainslie told OpenFile. What remains to be seen is if city council thinks trees are gravy. Stay tuned.

• Toronto can kiss its ash goodbye [Toronto OpenFile]