Nfld. & Labrador

They're baaaack: Elm spanworm resurfaces on northeast Avalon

They're unsightly and pesky, and have been known to induce the heebie-jeebies.
The elm spanworm has returned to terrorize people on the northeast Avalon.

They're unsightly and pesky, and have been known to induce a case of the heebie-jeebies.

The elm spanworm has returned to the St. John's area.

Widespread outbreaks first started in the city in 2002, and since then, there have been several instances where the insect has infested large areas of the northeast Avalon.

Councillor Jonathan Galgay told CBC Radio's CrossTalk on Thursday that this summer's outbreak is not overly serious — but the worms are still annoying.

"In fact, I was in Bannerman Park a few weeks ago. You could almost hear them in the trees, you can't really visibly see them rolled up into the leaves," he said.

"A lot of people get uncomfortable when they see them. They're like a worm with legs."

During a particularly bad outbreak a decade ago, numerous trees were destroyed, houses and vehicles were covered by the insects, and some people slipped on sidewalks slick with spanworms. Even some cemetery services had to be cancelled, due to the infestation.

Galgay said city staff have told him that it is unusual to see the spanworm this late in August, likely due to a cool July.

"I've seen them throughout the months in the summer, I think they have a six-week life cycle," he said.

The spanworms have already turned into moths in many parts of St. John's.

"But I haven't seen them re-emerge in such a fast time in such a late time of the summer. You see them in July, and they're gone by early August," said Galgay.

Galgay said unless trees have a historical value, the city doesn't normally use an insecticide.


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