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City urged to set aside more than $1-million to fight tree-killing beetle

Insect experts are telling people in not to bother treating their ash trees for the destructive insect called the emerald ash borer.

David Cappaert/AP

The emerald ash borer has arrived, thrived and is ready to take down all the ash trees in the GTA.

With that in mind, the parks and environment committee delivered a sombre message on Monday that the city best put aside $1.139-million to deal with the invasive beetle.

The emerald ash borer (EAB) has the potential to affect 8.4 per cent of Toronto's trees worth an estimated $570-million. The highest level of infestations are in the north-central and eastern parts of the city.

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And with no definitive cure for the affected ash trees or the spread of the insect across Southern Ontario and parts of Quebec, Toronto Councillor Paul Ainslie called it an "environmental calamity." His ward, Scarborough East, is one of the worst affected regions in Toronto.

"The worst part is there is nothing we can do to stop it," Mr. Ainslie said. "There is no cure for the affected trees and the ash borer does not have a natural predator here."

Now that the beetle is well-established, most of the city's ash trees will die within six or seven years, according to Monday's city staff report.

According to the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency, estimates show the emerald ash borer has killed several hundred thousand ash trees in Ontario's Essex County and eight to 10 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan.

The greatest risk of spread is when infested wood is transported by vehicle over long distances, such as during the transport of firewood, spokeswoman Mireille Marcotte said.

"We are mainly putting our efforts into that and also communication and education outreach," Ms. Marcotte said. "We let the municipalities decide what is the best method of dealing with the affected trees."

In Toronto, the parks and environment committee recommends part of the $1.139-million budget be put towards the use of the insecticide TreeAzin, which is largely successful in inhibiting larval development. But, the report also says that the costly injections must be repeated every two years. The estimated cost for 2011 is about $40,000.

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"It's very expensive and we don't really have money set aside in this year's operating budget," Mr. Ainslie said, adding the money would have to be reallocated.

The recommendation will be considered by city council on April 12.

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