The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has applied for a pesticide use permit to aerial-spray 186 hectares in Saanich with a spray approved for use on organic farms, to eradicate a growing population of gypsy moth and minimize the risk they pose to forests, farms, orchards and trees.

Trapping and monitoring results over the past year indicate a growing gypsy moth population in the proposed treatment area around Elk Lake.

If left untreated, the moth could spread to new areas of the province via vehicles, containers, rail and Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

The ministry has proposed up to four aerial applications of Foray 48B between April 15 and June 30, 2017, to control the moth.

Foray 48B has been approved for use on organic farms by the Organic Materials Review Institute and contains Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Btk). Btk does not harm humans, mammals, birds, fish, plants, reptiles, amphibians, bees or other insects and only affects caterpillars after they have ingested it.

Btk is naturally present in urban, forest and agricultural soil throughout the province. It has been approved for the control of gypsy moth larvae in Canada since 1961.

The Gypsy moth is an introduced pest species. The caterpillars feed on tree leaves and can damage forests, farms and orchards. Large gypsy moth populations defoliated sections of forests and residential areas in Ontario and the eastern U.S. in recent years.

The moths are unintentionally brought to B.C. on vehicles and equipment from eastern North America. Infested locations are often subject to agriculture and transportation quarantines and additional treatments, including vehicle checks, product certification and increased pesticide use.