Dealing with the emerald ash borer

Jaime Carnevale on different treatment methods and how to identify an infected tree
Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Toronto boasts more than 850,000 ash trees, but LEAF (a not-for-profit in urban forest stewardship) estimates the emerald ash borer, an invasive green-coloured beetle, will eventually kill nearly all of them. As part of its waste management programming, Partners in Project Green runs a material exchange program that connects businesses and solution providers, facilitating exchanges that ensure materials avoid landfill. Its latest initiative matches businesses with sawmills that sustainably convert infected ash trees into useable lumber.

Here, program coordinator Jaime Carnevale explores different treatment methods and provides tips on how to identify an infected tree.

How does the Material Exchange Program work?

Partners in Project Green is a public-private partnership led by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. The business community surrounding Toronto Pearson International Airport, together with the Region of Peel, City of Toronto, City of Mississauga, and City of Brampton, drive its programs and services.

The Material Exchange Program facilitates the exchange of materials between organizations, companies, and service providers to divert waste from landfill, while lowering costs, and maximizing the value and recovery of resources. Through our online network and staff support program, our team  matches and connects organizations looking to sustainably dispose of materials with others that can use them, and then we facilitate the exchange. All our efforts employ a business approach to both improve organizations’ bottom lines and better their environmental performance.

When did you learn about the ash tree problem?

Our team has been familiar with the ash tree problem since the fall of 2013,when we convened a roundtable with several municipalities to discuss and share knowledge on waste disposal plans associated with infected ash trees. Plans included solutions like mulching and composting, which often end up in landfill, but none really extracted the highest value from the tree: using its wood to create lumber. We brought various stakeholders together to develop a mobile sawmilling solution where lumber could be created on-site, reducing costs for everyone involved, including the tree owner, the miller, and the lumber producer, resulting in a much more environmentally sustainable solution.

What are signs that emerald ash borers have infected a tree?

The most common signs of an emerald ash borer infestation are (but not limited to):

  • Sightings of the beetle. The emerald ash borer is very distinctive looking in its adult form and stands out due to its metallic emerald green colour. It is about a half an inch long and slim in build.
  • “D” shaped holes in the tree bark that are roughly the size of a sunflower seed.
  • Cracks in the bark, or if the bark is easily removed from the tree.
  • If bark is removed from the tree it will have ‘S’ shaped tunnels or galleries between the bark and the wood.
  • Leaves with sections of the edges chewed away.

For more information, see the Canadian Forest Service’s Visual Guide to Detecting Emerald Ash Borer Damage.

What does the process of converting infected trees into useable lumber involve?

There are four basic players involved in the process: the property owner, whether it be residential, commercial or municipal; the arborist, to determine damage rating and cut down the infected trees; the miller, to mill the wood down into manageable and usable sizes; and the purchaser, whether it be to purchase for resale or as a building material.

By producing lumber from infected ash trees, the highest value from the tree is extracted.Trees processed on-site bring greater cost savings and result in a more environmentally sustainable solution.

The most challenging aspect is to ensure the lumber remains within the regulated zone of infection. If it is going to be travelling outside the zone, the lumber must be heat treated in a kiln to ensure any eggs or larva are exterminated.

Are there other treatment or control methods that you would recommend (for example, TreeAzin)?

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority has a long and active history in the effective protection, restoration and management of the forest system within its jurisdiction. TRCA’s response to EAB focuses on identifying ecologically important ash stands, ensuring forest regeneration, selecting and protecting individual trees with injections of TreeAzinTM.

We recommend getting in touch with your local conservation authority or your municipal office to get advice on what they are recommending for your area. There are many mixed reviews on insecticides and treatments and how effective they actually are in controlling the emerald ash borer.

Jaime Carnevale is the Material Exchange Program coordinator at Partners in Project Green.