Invasive Species Society warns of new insect pests and common plants to watch for

Invasive pests to watch

Solid progress has been made targeting invasive species in the Okanagan, thanks to the staff at Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS), though there are still some species of concern spreading throughout the valley.

Lisa Scott, the executive director for OASISS gave a summary of the organization's work from 2021 during the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s meeting on Thursday morning.

After 25 years on the job, Scott said they continue to battle the war on invasive species.

“We chemically treated a total of 25 hectares with a total of 964 treatments and we mechanically treated 278 sites covering a total of eight hectares,” she shared, adding they had 281 sites surveyed with no plants found.

“And just to be clear, if we find no plants at a site where we previously had invasive plants, we don't just think our job is done and walk away. There is a formula depending on the invasive plant we're targeting there.”

The team continues to focus efforts on a species of plants known to be deadly to horses if consumed, hoary alyssum. The plant continues to show up around farms and rural properties in Summerland and throughout the Okanagan, creeping into the Similkameen.

While OASISS does work with municipalities and the Ministry of Transportation to tackle the plant in public areas and along roadways, they also need private landowners to work with them.

“It doesn't make any sense for us to continue to put public dollars on the road if we're not encouraging reciprocal effort on private land. We don't have any jurisdiction there. So it's very strong encouragement, and incentives where we can assist private landowners in taking the required actions,” Scott explained.

Key areas of focus for the organization include tackling puncture vine and longspine sandbur throughout agricultural lands and organic farms.

They also continue to work with the Okanagan basin water board, trying to keep invasive mussels and invasive clams out of the water.

“We deal with emerging species as well. And from my perspective, the emerging species really all relate to insect pests,” Scott added.

Brown marmorated stink bugs have be found in the Similkameen and Okanagan Valley, with more reports seen spreading in downtown Kelowna spreading into orchards in the Mission Area.

“As far as control options, unfortunately they are limited at this time. So we're just the messenger but the Ministry of Agriculture is working with the Federal Agricultural Department to look at the direction of where to go with this particular insect pest.”

According to the province, the stink bug is a very serious pest that feeds on more than 100 different plant species. In 2010, an estimated loss of $37 million due to brown marmorated stink bug feeding was reported by the apple industry in the Mid-Atlantic States.

Any reports should go to the Ministry of Agriculture or the Kelowna office, with a picture of the stink bug or a collected sample in a vial or bag. Find more information here.

A new species to put on your radar is the spotted lantern fly. While it hasn’t yet been reported in Canada, the invasive pest loves grapes and fruit trees. It has been added to the federal govenrment's regulated pest list in 2018 in an effort to prevent the introduction from infested areas.

“This little guy has caused impacts of up to 90 per cent devastation in vineyards. We do not want it here,” Scott added.

Find out more about spotting and removing invasive plant species in the Okanagan and Similkameen click here.

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