StarMetro Vancouver, Wanyee Li, May 24, 2018. VANCOUVER - The invasive Japanese beetle has arrived in B.C. in a big way - about 850 of them were found in Vancouver’s David Lam Park. Inspectors first discovered the beetle in the city last summer, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Adult beetles are voracious feeders and can destroy a wide variety of plants including grass and shrubbery, as well as crops.
But it is the larvae that park board officials will be targeting when they spray pesticide on almost 20 hectares of public land around False Creek this summer. They hope to kill an entire generation’s worth of the beetle before they mature and cause problems in other parts of the city and province.
“We are aiming for eradication,” said Dr. Jane Pritchard, executive director of plant and animal health at the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
“This is a very serious pest we are very worried about it escaping the area. We are very fortunate that where it was found in British Columbia is a relatively small area in the urban centre.”
At the same time, the federal food inspection agency is restricting the movement of plants and soil out of a regulated area, which includes everything north of West 12th Ave., bordered by Burrard St. to the west and Clark Dr. to the east.
That rule applies all year round and people are banned from transporting above-ground plant material such as prunings out of the area from June 15 to Oct. 15. People can still dispose of those materials in the city’s green bins.
Individuals who don’t follow these rules may face fines anywhere from $500 to $1,300, said Shannon Derksen, an operational specialist with the CFIA. Businesses found in violation could face fines up to $10,000.
In addition to following these restrictions, people can help by checking their vehicles for beetles before they travel out of the area, said Derksen.
“The Japanese beetle is a notorious hitchhiker,” she said.
“The adult beetle can fly and it can catch a ride and just hang on with its little legs to different items and just catch a ride inside the cab or a truck or just in the grill.”
The CFIA has already set up 800 traps in the Vancouver area and plans to install 1,500 more from Whistler to Hope, so that officials can keep track of whether any beetles escape the False Creek area.
Officials don’t know for sure how the beetle came to B.C. and there are well-established protocols to contain the beetle to the already infested provinces and states on the eastern side of the continent, said Derksen.
Derksen acknowledged that there are no examples in Canada of authorities successfully eradicating the Japanese beetle once it arrived. But her department is consulting with an expert from Utah who successfully eradicated the Japanese beetle in that state, and is currently helping with the beetle problem in Oregon.
If authorities aren’t able to eliminate the Japanese beetle in Vancouver’s False Creek area, the insect could wreak havoc with farmers’ crops in the Fraser Valley and beyond, said Pritchard. Japanese beetles eat almost 300 different plants including leafy vegetables, blueberries, and other fruits.
Vancouver Park Board staff will launch a comprehensive treatment program of the almost 20 hectares of land around False Creek and downtown Vancouver starting at the beginning of June. Staff will be using the pesticide, Acelepryn, which will kill Japanese beetle larvae, as well as chafer beetle larvae, but will not harm butterflies, birds, or mammals, according to Pritchard.
The treatment will take about three to four weeks to complete and staff will put up fencing and signage to let the public know when they will be spraying the various parks, boulevards, and street medians.
Some parks may be closed for part of the day as the pesticide requires three hours to dry, according to Howard Normann, director of parks at the Vancouver Park Board.
In addition to David Lam Park, staff will spray George Wainborne Park, Charleston Park, Sutcliffe Park, and May and Lorne Brown Park, Crab Park, and Emery Barnes Park.
Wanyee Li is a Vancouver-based reporter covering urban affairs and new technology. Follow her on Twitter: @wanyeelii