European gypsy moths (note the feather-like antennae) are an invasive species in North America, but the province is attempting to keep them from getting a foothold in B.C. by spraying for the moths in various parts of the province, including Lake Cowichan. (Photo by Marian Goldsmith/Used Under Common License)

Aerial spraying planned to prevent gypsy moth problem at Lake Cowichan

Invasive insects can travel widely, and cause significant damage: province

The province plans to spray 231 hectares of central Lake Cowichan in 2020 to prevent a gyspy moth infestation.

The area is one of three chosen by the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to do aerial spray applications next year; the others are 241 ha of residential and municipal parkland in North Surrey, and 167 ha of semi-rural properties and wooded areas north of Castlegar.

According to a release from the ministry, the spraying program is “to prevent gypsy moth populations from becoming established and minimize the risk they pose to forests, farms, orchards and trees.”

Trapping and monitoring results over the past several years “show clear evidence that gypsy moth populations are becoming established in the proposed treatment areas. If left untreated, the invasive moth could spread to new areas of the province via vehicles, containers, rail and marine vessels,” the release continues.

The ministry is planning up to four applications of Foray 48B between April 15 and June 30, 2020, to control the moth.

What is Foray 48B?

“Foray 48B is used in organic farming and contains bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Btk). Btk has been approved for the control of gypsy moth larvae in Canada since 1961. Btk is naturally present in urban, forest and agricultural soil throughout the province. It does not harm humans, mammals, birds, fish, plants, reptiles, amphibians, bees or other insects. It only affects caterpillars after they have ingested it,” the ministry says.

Residents are invited to submit their comments on the application (refer to Permit No. 56055-738-0030-20/23) for evaluation to the Integrated Pest Management Act administrator, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Suite 200-10470 152 St., Surrey, B.C., V3R 0Y3, by Jan. 17, 2020.

The gypsy moth is an introduced pest species.

The caterpillars feed on tree leaves and can damage forests, farms and orchards. Large gypsy moth populations defoliated sections of forests and residential areas in Ontario and the eastern United States in recent years.

The moths are unintentionally brought to B.C. on vehicles and equipment from eastern North America. Infested locations are often subject to agriculture and transportation quarantines, and additional treatments including vehicle checks, product certification and increased pesticide use.

Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters was interested when he talked about the announcement on Thursday.

“I’ve seen something about that when I looked through my email. I don’t know anything about it yet,” he said.

“I know it has to be done but I don’t know how bad it is for people really. I don’t know much about that. I have to get staff investigating that.”

To learn more about gypsy moths, visit www.gov.bc.ca/gypsymoth or call toll-free 1-866-917-5999.

For information about the permit application and to view a map of the treatment zone, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/managing-our-forest-resources/forest-health/invasive-forest-pests/gypsy-moth/news

The permit application and map is also available at Lake Cowichan Town Hall at 39 S. Shore Rd.

According to the Government of Canada webpage about the critters, “Gypsy moths are destructive pests. They get their name from their ability to travel by attaching to various objects. They appear in late July or August. Males are greyish brown and can fly and survive about one week, mating with several different females. Females are larger and whitish with darker zigzag marks. The female cannot fly and dies shortly after laying her eggs.

“Gypsy moth caterpillars’ (larvae) change looks as they grow. Young caterpillars are black or brown and about .6 cm (.24 inches) in length. As they grow, bumps develop along their backs with coarse black hairs. The caterpillar is easily recognizable in the later part of this stage: charcoal grey with a double row of five blue and six red dots on its back. Feeding ends by early July, and mature caterpillars can be as long as 6.35 cm (2.5 inches).”

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