British Columbia

'They are very ravenous': How you can help stop the spread of Japanese beetle

A thumbnail-sized insect known to tear through crops and gardens is the target of a federal eradication campaign — and there are ways you can help stop the spread.

Containment areas in Vancouver have grown since the beetle was first spotted in 2017

Japanese beetles are known to leave behind a trail of damage. The invasive pest was found in Vancouver's False Creek neighbourhood in 2017, and the affected area has been growing steadily since. (The Associated Press)

A thumbnail-sized insect known to tear through crops and gardens is the target of a federal eradication campaign — and there are ways you can help stop the spread.

While they might be small, Japanese beetles are known to leave behind a trail of damage. The invasive pest was found in Vancouver's False Creek neighbourhood in 2017, and the affected area has been growing steadily since.

"These beetles defoliate, so they take and they eat shrubs, and they eat the leaves off the trees, they will take out grassy areas," said Laura Doheny, the store manager at Hunter's Garden Centre in Vancouver's west side. "They can be very destructive."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has set up a containment zone around the affected areas of the city, which includes False Creek, downtown, and all of Stanley Park.

The federal government has set up signs warning residents of the affected areas. Traps have been set up in neighbourhoods throughout the city to keep track of the spread, which officials say attack the fruit of more than 250 plant species, including roses, blueberries, and grapevines.

The province said the beetle could spell trouble for B.C.'s agricultural sector, sports fields, and golf courses.

Neighbouring municipalities, including West Vancouver and the City of Burnaby are also on alert, but have not reported any sightings.

"They are very ravenous and they can eat a very large amount of plant material in a very short amount of time," said Doheny.

Adult Japanese beetles are around 10 mm long, metallic green and have bronze-coloured wings. Their larvae are C-shaped, white and have a yellowish-brown head. (David Cappaert/Bugwood.org/Province of British Columbia)

Identifying the bug

The beetles are about the size of a fingernail. They are iridescent green with bronze-coloured wing covers, with white tufts of hair on along the sides and rear of the abdomen.

Larvae live in the soil. The have creamy white grubs with a yellowish-brown head.

Doheny says during the early summer, the adults start to fly and can be picked up by the wind into neighbouring properties, contributing to the spread.

Sightings should be reported to the CFIA. Residents are urged to catch the bugs if they can. According to the city, it's easier to catch them in the early morning because the dew makes it harder for them to fly.

Residents are urged to hang on to the dead beetles until contacting officials. Concerned residents can also reach out to local gardeners for support.

"The key is just being vigilant," said Doheny. "If you feel like you have an issue that you're not sure of what it is, or you have a bug that you find in your garden that you can't identify, its one of those things we say take a picture, bring it in, let us see what's going on in a sealed container so that we can make a positive identification."

Residents should not bring a beetle outside the containment area.

The City of Vancouver is trying to prevent the Japanese beetle from spreading. It eats the leaves of plants and can kill them. (Canadian Food Inspection Agency)

Transfer station

Residents inside the containment area are not allowed to move plant materials beyond zone borders. The city has opened a transfer station near the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge for plant materials.

The temporary transfer station is only for excess green waste (no food waste) that will not fit in your green bin, according to the city.

It will be open until October 15. Anyone who breaks the rules will be fined by the CFIA.

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