Reports that the asian long horned beetle that's been threatening area trees has been "eradicated" are greatly exaggerated. A massive tree-cutting operation aimed at wiping them out saw about 15,000 glorious hardwoods vanish northwest of the city. City forester Richard Ubbens says he was upset by media reports saying the bug had been eradicated, since such a declaration in scientific terms can only be made four years after the last sighting of the pesky little critters.
And as Ubbens put it late last week, based on U.S. experience, not to mention the four to six years the beetle went undetected in our forests, "we know we're gonna find more."
Explains the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Howard Stanley, "Even with the best surveying techniques, 70 per cent of the time we get it but 30 per cent of the time we miss it."
As for containment, a ministerial order in late February restricting the movement of host species (nursery stock, leaves, lumber and wood chips) is still in effect. But a few weak spots in the measures - not to mention the largely voluntary nature of enforcement and the immensity of the area (nearly one-quarter the size of Toronto itself) - suggests there are a lot of hurdles to clear before we can declare ourselves home-free.
To date, Stanley says at least half a dozen violators (offenses are punishable by up to $250,000 in fines and/or two years in jail) have already been caught. Some were blatantly ignoring the rules, while others were unaware of them.
To CFIA's credit, massive public education campaigns, including newspaper ads, posters, mailings and regular industry meetings, have reached out to populations inside and outside the containment zone.
But according to Stella Ammendolia, a co-owner of Angelo's Garden Centre, a nursery in the containment area, even many locals are still unaware of the situation.
To top it off, information isn't getting out as fast as it could. Stella's brother Carlo, who shares the business, says he requested posters, billboards and information leaflets from the CFIA back in March, and they still haven't received them.