Tim Ebata, a forest health officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, shows where the ministry is planning to spray in and around Lake Cowichan for the invasive species gypsy moth this spring at an open house on Jan. 28. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Gypsy moth spraying in Lake Cowichan begins next week

Spraying will start shortly after sunrise and should be completed by 7:30 a.m. daily.

The first aerial-spraying treatment to eradicate invasive gypsy moths from 231 hectares of residential and municipal park land in Lake Cowichan will is scheduled for next week, weather permitting.

The gypsy moth is destructive to native and urban forests and orchards. Without treatment, it could spread to other parts of the province and put hundreds of species of trees and shrubs at risk, including endangered Garry oak ecosystems, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said in a press release Tuesday.

Spraying will take place from the forest south of Hammond Road, north to the Cowichan Valley Highway, west to Fen Road and east to Boundary Road.

Spraying will start shortly after sunrise (approximately 5:50 a.m.) and should be completed by 7:30 a.m. daily. Up to four separate treatments are required this spring. Unless delayed by poor weather, each treatment is expected to take one to two mornings to apply. The first treatment will take two mornings. The ministry aims to complete spraying by mid-June.

The spray area will be treated with Foray 48B, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Btk). Btk is an organic, natural agent that has been approved for the control of gypsy moth larvae in Canada since 1961. Foray 48B and other Btk formulations received certification for acceptable use on certified organic farms by the Organic Materials Review Institute of Canada in April 2018.

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 and affects caterpillars only after they have ingested it.

The spray will be applied by a low-flying plane. Residents within and adjacent to the treatment area will likely hear the aircraft at some point during the treatment. The spray equipment is GPS-calibrated and controlled. Spraying will occur only when the plane is immediately over the treatment area.

Anyone wishing to minimize contact with the spray material should stay inside with their windows and doors closed during the spraying, and for at least 30 minutes after. Pets or livestock that may be frightened by the aircraft should be secured or brought indoors.

Poor weather or wind may cause treatments to be postponed with little advance notice, and the treatment will resume the next suitable morning.

A telephone line is staffed during business hours and provides up-to-date spray schedules and recorded information 24 hours per day, toll-free, at 1 -866-917-5999. Individuals subscribed to gypsy moth email updates will receive automatic program updates. To subscribe, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/gypsymoth

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