London

Lambton Shores homeowners hoping for solution to Gypsy Moth infestation

Gypsy moths are becoming a growing concerns for more communities across southwestern Ontario. In Port Franks, west of Pinery Provincial Park, a resident says the caterpillars have made hunkering down at home during the pandemic a much more confined experience. 

A Lambton Shores resident said she can't even visit her backyard because the larvae have taken over

Gypsy moth caterpillars have taken over London's Byron neighbourhood (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC News)

Gypsy moths are becoming a growing concerns for more communities across southwestern Ontario. 

In the Lambton Shores community of Port Franks, located just west of Pinery Provincial Park, a resident says the caterpillars have made hunkering down at home during the pandemic a much more confined experience. 

"Imagine that you couldn't actually go into your own backyard because if you go into your own backyard you have caterpillars literally dropping into your hair, dropping onto your patio furniture, onto your bird feeders, your pools, your children's playground equipment," said Romayne Smith Fullerton. 

"It's not just a one off, it's an hourly occurrence," she added. "You clear up [caterpillar] poop and you clear up all the leaves and then, within two hours, it's back to where it was again."

Gypsy moths can cause long-term damage to trees by completely defoliating them. The invasive species prefer hardwood trees like maple, elm and, particularly, oak trees. 

Gypsy moth caterpillars are all over the Lambton Shores community of Port Franks - and besides the nuisance, people are worried about the affect they're having on the environment and the local economy. We talked about it with resident Romayne Smith Fullerton. 8:11

The rise of the larvae in Port Franks over the last few years has prompted Smith Fullerton, along with other community members, to address the Lambton Shores council in July and ask for a solution. 

"We suspect that the solution may be the same one that the city of Sarnia, Etobicoke and Toronto have done which is an aerial spray." 

In London, officials have said that an aerial spray isn't in the plans for the region at this time. For the last two years residents in the Byron area have been at a constant battle with the moths. The infestation even prompted the city to scrape gypsy moth eggs off of more than 500 trees earlier in the year in an effort to get ahead of the problem. 

In addition to the inconvenience the moths cause for residents, Smith Fullerton says people in Lambton Shores are concerned about the environmental impact. 

"I would say my oak [trees] are about 90 per cent bare of leaves," she said. 

"The vast majority of [residents] moved to Port Franks because we're nature lovers and we're tree lovers and virtually everybody I know puts a lot of time and money and effort into being great stewards of their own property."

In an interview earlier this month on Afternoon Drive, Jeremy McNeil, a professor of biology at Western University who specializes in insect ecology, said repeated defoliation can slow the growth of trees and make them more susceptible to diseases 

"To see an invasion of this size happen and to see all of your work, all of your money and all of your care literally defoliating and deforesting before your eyes as some is is more than upsetting," Smith Fullerton said. 

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