Help protect Alberta’s beautiful elm trees

Jun 21, 2022

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“STOP a killer from entering Alberta.”

“The Society to Prevent Dutch Elm Disease (STOPDED) is asking for your assistance to save our beautiful elm trees from the deadly Dutch elm disease (DED),” says Janet Feddes-Calpas, executive director of STOPDED. “Alberta has been fortunate to remain DED free but is constantly aware of the threat of the disease pressing the Saskatchewan and Montana borders.”

One of the largest spreaders of DED are the elm bark beetles (EBB) that can carry DED on elm firewood. Beetles can hitch a ride on infected elmwood and be carried by unsuspecting campers and homeowners.

DED is caused by a fungus that clogs the elm tree's water conducting system, causing the tree to die. The fungus is primarily spread from one elm tree to another by one of the 3 EBBs: the smaller European elm bark beetle, the banded elm bark beetle, or the native elm bark beetle. The beetles are attracted to weak and dying trees, which serve as breeding sites for the beetles. Once the beetles have pupated and turned into adults, they leave the brood gallery and fly to healthy elms to feed, thus transporting the fungus on their bodies from one tree to the next.

Under the Alberta Agricultural Pests Act (APA) Pest and Nuisance Control Regulation (PNCR) the DED pathogens and the EBBs are named declared pests. All municipalities, counties and MDs in the province of Alberta have the responsibility and authority to prevent and control DED under the APA.

For those municipalities that do not have a DED bylaw in place, the APA provides a means for enforcement. Several sections of the APA and the Regulation can be applied. It is an offence not to take ‘active measures’ and not to follow an Inspector’s Notice which can be issued by an agricultural fieldman, community peace officer, a municipal officer that has dual municipal and provincial appointments, or an APA pest inspector appointed by the municipality. They all have the powers and responsibilities outlined under the APA Section 17 to enforce the Alberta DED Prevention/Control Measures to the landowner.

“Using traps and lures, monitoring for the EBB is done annually throughout Alberta by STOPDED. Only the smaller European and the banded beetles have been found on traps throughout the province in low numbers since 1996. In recent years, higher numbers of the banded EBB have been found in the City of Medicine Hat and now are being found in more municipalities in southern Alberta,” says Feddes-Calpas.

There have been 2 isolated cases of DED in the province, one in the Town of Wainwright in 1998, and the last, in the City of Lethbridge in 2020. The trees were immediately removed and buried. Elm trees in both municipalities were immediately surveyed for signs of disease in elm trees and elm firewood near the detection sites.

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