An armyworm chomps on a blade of grass in a field at John Oosterom’s Beaver Creek farm. The armyworms flattened a 10-acre field of hay in two days, Oosterom said. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Entomologist to visit Alberni Valley over armyworm infestation

Public meeting planned for Wednesday, Aug. 2

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is bringing an entomologist to town to talk about the armyworm infestation that has hit Alberni Valley farms and gardens.

The entomologist, from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, will be available at a public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Beaver Creek Hall starting at 1:30 p.m. ACRD spokesperson Heather Shobe said the entomologist will be on hand to provide information and answer questions about the outbreak.

Farms in the Beaver Creek area first noticed armyworms or caterpillars in mid-July; farmer John Oosterom lost 10 acres of hay in two days thanks to the infestation.

Since then, some home gardeners have spotted the armyworm in their gardens.

READ: Tips for home gardeners on armyworm

READ: Armyworm invades Alberni Valley farms

READ: Pests positively ID’s as armyworm

“This is the first time they’ve been seen here in B.C.,” Shobe said. The pest is usually spotted in southern Manitoba and Ontario; it is thought some of the adult moths arrived on an unusual air current and landed in the Alberni Valley, she said.

“They’re not likely to overwinter.”

There are few ways that farmers or gardeners will be able to combat this infestation, Shobe said. “There may not be anything we can do about it,” she said. “We may just have to ride this out.

“One of the challenges with this kind of huge outbreak, is to effectively eliminate we would have to have broad-scale use of pesticides. The farmers themselves aren’t spraying,” she said. “They’re very knowledgeable about the eco-system and their choice is not to spray.”

Farmers are turning to biological controls such as nematodes or parasitic wasps (Trichogramma Pretiosum) to help alleviate damage from the armyworm. The first wave has already occurred, but a second generation of larvae can be expected later this month.

The home use BTK pesticide isn’t effective for armyworm once the get beyond a certain size. Pesticides also have other side-effects in gardens, she added. “In a home-scale garden, my biggest suggestion is to haul out a blanket and lure them to a moist, shady spot, then kill them in a bucket of soapy water,” Shobe said.

Parasitic wasps can also be used by home gardeners; they would have to be released very soon, when adult moths start to be seen in Pheromone traps, she said. Entomologists will be in the Valley to do some Pheromone trapping this week.

The ACRD’s ‘What’s on Your Fork’ Facebook page has ongoing info on the armyworm infestation, or people can e-mail Shobe at heather@edentreefarm.ca.

editor@albernivalleynews.com