War on armyworm ongoing

The war against the armyworm is continuing in the North Okanagan.

Last year the Western yellowstriped armyworm made an appearance in the Spallumcheen area for the first time.

This year, they are being spotted by the thousands and government agencies are looking into what to do about the veracious insect that will eat just about anything green.

Susanna Acheampong, an entomologist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture, has been investigating the worms since they were first spotted.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has expanded our pheromone trapping program for detecting when the moths are flying with traps at 22 farms,” said Acheampong.

“The second generation moths started flying two weeks ago with lots of moths caught in our traps last week and this week. The moth eggs are beginning to hatch out. We saw a few small caterpillars yesterday.”

Acheampong said farmers and homeowners should be on the lookout for the caterpillars and she urges people to contact her with new sightings. 

The Western yellowstriped armyworm was reported for the first time in the North Okanagan in Enderby, Armstrong and Spallumcheen in July 2018.

Thousands of caterpillars moved into crops causing extensive damage to vegetable and flower gardens, ornamentals and alfalfa. The pest is known to be native to British Columbia and the Western United States.

In early June, the government declared an armyworm outbreak.

Acheampong said the arrival of the armyworms is quite concerning and could have a detrimental impact on the area.

“It can be devastating for farmers who are growing vegetables, and even homeowners it's a nightmare because you see these huge numbers around and they are not a very pleasant sight,” said Acheampong, adding the worms are hard to tackle as they can move quickly from one area to another.

“That makes it very difficult for farmers to control. It is a challenging thing to deal with.”

The insecticide BTK has been shown effective on the armyworms, but Acheampong stressed people need to be careful what they spray so as not to hurt beneficial insects like bees.

Acheampong said a lot of effort is being put into learning as much as possible, as fast as possible about the worm.

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