Posted By MIKE BEITZ , STAFF REPORTER
Updated 1 hour ago
City and county officials have said all along it was only a matter of time before the dreaded emerald ash borer made its way to Perth County.
They were right.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed Thursday the destructive little beetle has been spotted in the Whalen Line and Granton Line area just inside the south boundary between Perth and Middlesex.
Perth planning director Dave Hanly said a few adult beetles were discovered in one or two trees in an isolated location, but it’s unlikely they’ll spread this year.
“There’s no need for panic at this point,” said Hanly, suggesting property owners in the area should not rush out to cut down entire woodlots to prevent the spread.
Still, the CFIA is being cautious.
A quarantine order could be in effect soon prohibiting the movement of ash wood from the area around the property where the beetles were discovered.
The next step would be a more comprehensive ministerial order, preventing the movement of ash outside of Perth County.
Until now, Perth has been spared the ravages of the hungry little bug, which has killed millions of ash trees in southwestern Ontario, Michigan and surrounding states.
“We’ve been the hole in the doughnut,” said Hanly, noting the ash borer has been found in neighbouring Huron, Middlesex, Oxford and Waterloo counties.
Eventually that hole will close in on Stratford, said Quin Malott, the city’s manager of parks and forestry.
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With the movement of ash firewood as a major contributing factor in the spread of the ash borer, the absence of a campground in Stratford may have protected it so far, he said, but it won’t keep the beetle away forever.
“It’s only a matter of time before it invades the city,” Malott said. “It’s getting closer.”
When it does arrive, the city has a plan in place to hopefully minimize the damage.
It has already injected dozens of older, “high-value” ash trees in the parks system with a pesticide intended to immunize them against the ash borer.
But there are nearly 1,800 ash trees in the city, and it’s simply too expensive to inject them all, said Malott, suggesting some will invariably be lost.
When a tree is found to be infected — staff have been trained to spot the signs — it will be taken down and chipped, he said.
“We’re taking it on a tree-by- tree basis,” Malott said.