Long before the leaves started to fall, bare branches stuck out like ugly tentacles in Petrolia and Central Lambton woodlots.
Nine years after the Emerald Ash Borer first made an appearance in Lambton County, officials say the full effects are being felt.
The forest management specialist for the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority says it has taken this long for the green beetle to kill off large amounts of trees in the area.
Emerald ash borer was first detected in Canada in 2002, in Windsor according to the federal government. By 2005, it had spread into Essex and Lambton counties. By 2009, municipal officials were talking about the effect the bug could have and how they might prevent it from killing off vast amounts of trees. Officials estimate between eight and 20 percent of the tree canopy in Ontario is made up of ash trees.
Tim Payne says he really started to notice the effects of the beetle, which lays eggs on the bark of the tree which burrow inside and dig around until they eventually kill the tree. “For a long time the ash trees were still leafing out …then bam! They’re all dead.
“Finally with the wiggling around and eating of the (tree) and it finally dies,” says Payne noting that can take years depending how many emerald ash borers are in the forest.
By looking around the region, it seems the bugs have been hard at work. Photos taken this summer in the area clearly show vast amounts of dead trees in woodlots.
And Payne says he’s been getting a lot of calls asking what they can and cannot do. Payne says many farmers are most concerned about the dead wood on the edge of the woodlot which “could potentially fall into the middle of the field.
“A lot of people are just cleaning up along the edges on a case by case basis,” he says.
Others who take a more active interest in the whole woodlot may be cleaning out the dead wood. “Some people are really neat and don’t like the look of dead trees so they clean it up.”
But Payne cautions woodlot owners to deal with the dead wood only. “You can clean up without permits,” he says “but the definition of a woodlot still applies…you can cut down all the (dead) ash you want but iyou still have little trees and other trees in there which make it a woodlot.”
Payne adds if a woodlot owner has questions about what they can and can’t do or want advice, they can contact him and he’ll come out to the woodlot to take a look.