A bug which has been destroying trees in Waterloo Region will spread to new parts of the country over the next few years, according to University of Waterloo research.

Waterloo biology professor Kim Cuddington led the creation of a map which predicts the progress of the emerald ash borer.

The research suggests that the insect will likely make its way into communities such as Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Calgary. It could also move further north to Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Edmonton, although this is considered this likely.

These findings contradict previous predictions that western parts of Canada would prove too cold for the insect to survive.

The difference, Cuddington says, is that climate change has led to slight temperature increases in western Canada – just enough to keep the bug alive, as it lives under the bark, where temperatures are warmer than outside.

“This should be a wake-up call for how we think about invasive species,” Cuddington said in a press release.

The emerald ash borer has been a problem in southern Ontario for many years. The pest is believed to be responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of ash trees.

“By the time we see the damage, it’s almost too late,” Cuddington said.

In 2013, it was estimated that destroying and replacing trees affected by the ash borer would cost Canadian municipalities $2 billion over 30 years. The Grand River Conservation Authority said one year later that it expected to spend $8 million to deal with thousands of infected trees on its property.

According to Cuddington, the study shows that researchers should consider increasingly unpredictable climate sensations when looking at the spread of invasive species.