News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg partnering with researchers to fight elm bark beetles

“If this field project works, we could significantly slow the loss of our much-loved elm trees.”

An arborist uses a chainsaw to bring down a dying elm tree in this file photo.

Metro File

An arborist uses a chainsaw to bring down a dying elm tree in this file photo.

Each year, the City of Winnipeg’s urban forestry branch battles elm bark beetles—now they’re planning to get a leg up by getting to know their enemy better.

The city has launched a $30,000 field research project in collaboration with the University of Winnipeg, which is meant to “identify and prioritize the early removal of brood trees,” according to a prepared statement.

Researchers from the U of W’s Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research will refine brood tree detection techniques during the next three summers, focusing on areas rich with urban elms, including Wolseley, Wellington Crescent and Crescentwood neighbourhoods.

Brood trees are the nesting grounds where female elm bark beetles lay eggs to stock the beetle barracks with a new generation of Dutch Elm Disease-causing bugs.

“Previous research has shown that a small percentage of trees contain large amounts of elm bark beetles,” said city forester Marsha Barwinsky. “We want to figure out how we can easily identify these trees so we can remove them quickly and potentially reduce the spread of Dutch elm disease.”

The U of W research lead on the project, Dr. Richard Westwood, hypothesized the trees targeted “are already weak,” and give off a smell beetles detect.

“Our challenge is to go after these susceptible trees quickly and remove them,” he said, adding that the city is losing “two to two per cent of our elm trees annually.”

“If this field project works, we could significantly slow the loss of our much-loved elm trees.” 

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