Beauty in a mass extinction.

Coming to an ash tree near you.

The terrible beauty in an insect’s destruction.

I found this piece of wood a couple of days ago and photographed it again today. The patterns carved into the wood are beautiful and resemble Australian aboriginal art but their origin is quite sinister. This wood has been infested by a creature known as the Smaller European elm bark beetle. Although this beetle (like many other bark beetles) doesn’t kill the trees it infests, it is the invasive species that carried and spread Dutch Elm Disease throughout North America, destroying billions of elm trees throughout the continent.

An equally dangerous tree pest which has established itself is the emerald ash borer, an invasive species brought to North America in the 1990s probably in wooden pallets. This insect kills the trees it infests directly. At first there was a desperate attempt to contain the pests but the battle is lost with every ash tree on the continent now in jeopardy. Imagine the effect on the environment if you could plant 50 to 100 million trees over a few years. Now imagine the reverse because that’s the number of trees that this creature has killed so far with the rest of the continent’s 7.5 billion ash trees firmly in its sights.

Thanks to increasing levels of world trade, North America is under siege from non-native plants and animals. The St Lawrence Seaway opening in 1959 brought the Lamprey eel, a parasite that feeds on fish. The weir in the park was constructed to act as a barrier to the lamprey. Asian carp are thought to have recently established themselves in the Great Lakes and could devastate fishing stocks here as they have no natural predators and thus there is no defence against them.

Unfortunately, government agencies on both sides of the border are slow to react to such invasions and by the time we take preventative or remedial action, the battle is lost.

Traces of pine bark beetles.

More evidence of bark beetles, probably pine bark beetles.

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