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A long-term partnership to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer

April 20, 2016 | Stéphanie Thibault

Update : November 19, 2020

INRS and GDG Environnement will use new knowledge on the emerald ash borer to implement an integrated biological control strategy while continuing to advance research.

The emerald ash borer gains ground every year, threatening the ash trees in North America’s urban areas and woodlands. INRS professor Claude Guertin together with Robert Lavallée, a Natural Resources Canada researcher, have developed a biological control mechanism to fight emerald ash borer adults. A pilot project will be rolled out in municipalities in Quebec and Ontario starting in summer 2016 through a partnership with GDG Environnement.

The researchers have designed an auto-dissemination device that forces the adult insects through a fungus-laden chamber. The insects fly off and continue their normal life cycle. They transmit the disease to other insects during mating. Then the fungus rapidly multiplies, killing the emerald ash borers.

The research agreement signed today in Trois-Rivières will include installation of the device in participating municipalities. Over the next four years, GDG Environnement, working with INRS and Natural Resources Canada, will put every effort into acquiring knowledge leading to the approval of the device, which is based on the use of a natural fungus that targets the emerald ash borer.

The preliminary data collected by INRS and Natural Resources Canada looks promising. The partnership with GDG Environnement will allow INRS to expand the geographic scope for trap installation and data collection. By the end of the process, the company, which specializes in biological insect control, will have the exclusive right to sell the the device in Canada, the United States, and the European Union.

The emerald ash borer was accidentally introduced into North America from Asia. Unfortunately its new ecosystem has been a little too welcoming. The factors that naturally regulate its population are not present in North America, allowing it to spread quickly and easily. The technology underlying the solution seriously hinders the emerald ash borer’s ability to multiply. Combined with other treatments and management tools, it could help slow progression of the invasive species.

One of the objectives is to go into areas where the emerald ash borer has been newly introduced and protect the majestic ash trees before they can be infested.