Aerial pesticide spraying to begin in Surrey and Delta in April

SURREY — An open house was held on Tuesday (March 3) at Surrey Museum to inform the public about aerial pesticide treatment planned in Surrey and Delta to eradicate an invasive moth species.

Over the past year, trapping and monitoring has shown a growing European gypsy moth population around 64th Avenue and 176th Street in Surrey and between Highways 10, 99 and 91 in Delta. Last summer, 197 male moths were found in the Cloverdale area.

The province considers the moth, also known as Lymantria dispar, to be a “threat to B.C.’s ecology and economy.” The ministry says the presence of the moths “poses a quarantine threat and potential trade restrictions for products like Christmas trees, logs with bark, nursery plants, and challenges for transportation (trucks may need agricultural inspections).”

If left untreated, the moth could spread to new areas of the province via vehicles, containers, rail, Deltaport, the Surrey Fraser Docks and Tsawwassen ferry terminal.

Tim Ebata, a forest health officer with the ministry, said the size of the moth’s population found in Surrey is "unusually high."

He noted the moth being located in Surrey is particularly concerning because it’s close to many major trade routes. Western North America is considered gypsy moth free, he explained, which is why the province is aggressive in eradicating any that are found.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has been issued a pesticide use permit to aerial spray 4,576 hectares in Surrey and 204 hectares in Delta to exterminate the growing gypsy moth population. An additional 26-hectare ground spray will be conducted on a rural property due south of the intersection of 172nd Street and 56th Avenue.

The ministry plans up to four applications of the pesticide,Foray 48B between April 15 and June 30 this year. Each application will be completed before 7:30 a.m.

According to a release by the ministry, the spray is approved for use on organic farms by the Organic Material Review Institute and has been approved for the control of the insect in Canada since 1961. Foray 48B contains Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Btk), which the Ministry lists as being naturally present in urban, forest and agricultural soil in B.C.

The province notes Btk does not harm humans, mammals, birds, fish, plants, reptiles, amphibians, bees or other insects and only affects caterpillars after they have ingested it. It is exempt from the city’s pesticide bylaws.

The gypsy moth attacks both natural forests and urban trees, and in 1999 resulted in the U.S. threatening to refuse shipments of trees and plants from B.C.’s nurseries without additional inspection certificates.

As well as anticipated effects on the province’s ecology and economy, an established infestation of the moth could have impacts on residents, as the defoliation would kill many trees, leading to a need to increase pesticide use. The fine hairs shed by the caterpillars also cause dermatitis in many people.

This species of moth was first introduced from Europe into Massachusetts in the U.S. in 1869 in an attempt to breed it with silk works. The moths escaped, and by 1889 had become a significant pest in the area, reportedly completely stripping trees of leaves, caterpillars covering houses and sidewalks, and larvae and their feces raining down upon passersby.

By 1912, the moth had entered Canada, and was first discovered in B.C. in 1978.

Permit application and maps are available at Surrey and Delta city halls and online at Gov.bc.ca/gypsymoth.

areid@thenownewspaper.com