London

London tries to get ahead of gypsy moth infestation

Arborists, deployed by the City of London, are on the hunt for gypsy moth egg masses in an attempt to alleviate the infestation of the larvae in the Byron neighbourhood. 

Neighbouring woods and a large population of oak trees have made Byron the prime home for the insect

Gypsy moths tend to prefer hardwood trees like maple, elm and, particularly, oak. These cream coloured, fluffy egg masses can contain anywhere between 500 to 1000 eggs according to Andy Beaton, the forestry operation manager for the City of London. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Arborists, deployed by the City of London, are on the hunt for gypsy moth eggs in an attempt to alleviate the infestation of the larvae in the Byron neighbourhood. 

Over the next two months, close to 5000 city owned trees will be treated through the removal of egg masses, which can contain anywhere between 500 to 1000 gypsy moth eggs. 

"We're trying to get ahead of the insect before they emerge, come out as caterpillars and start the aggressive feeding and the mess that homeowners are seeing," said Andy Beaton, the forestry operation manager for the City of London.

"By doing the egg mass removal we're ahead of the life cycle, because once the caterpillar is out, it's hard for homeowners to do any type of control."

Gypsy moths, which are common in southern Ontario, are an invasive species that can completely defoliate a tree, causing long-term damage. Back in 2009, London faced a huge outbreak leaving the city with no other option than to conduct an aerial spray to get rid of the infestation. 

Neighbouring woods and a large population of oak, elm and maple trees have made Byron a prime breeding ground for the insect.

Beaton says homeowners who encounter egg masses in their private trees can destroy them by gently scrapping them from off the bark and placing them into a container of soapy water for two days. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

A large number of complaints this past summer and a fall survey allowed the city to create a key management area map of the area that is being targeted with the hopes of reducing the number of moths this coming summer. 

Instead of spraying the area, the city opted for the removal of the egg masses.

"It's a little bit more neighborhood friendly than flying helicopters over the neighborhood. We're getting a ground eye view of what's going on out there and the climbers are right in the trees," Beaton said.

Arborist Jordan Feairs climbs up a tree on Widdicomb Crescent searching for egg masses, while arborist Chris Gooyers scrapes one closer to the ground. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Aside from climbing the tree, Beaton said the removal process is fairly simple. 

Arborists scrape the wool-looking masses off of the bark of the trees and then dispose of them into a mixture of water and soap that destroys the eggs within a couple of days. 

"While we can't eliminate them 100 per cent because they will always be in the environment, we can reduce the population," Beaton said. 

The city will be mailing more than 2000 information packages to homeowners in the Byron area explaining the gypsy moth management plan, including how people can manage the trees on their private property.

"If homeowners can look around their properties and help in their reduction of gypsy moth egg masses, it will help everybody in the neighbourhood," Beaton said. 

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