At the Limerick Township planning committee meeting on June 14, the committee discussed the ongoing issue this year gypsy moths, which have been increasingly defoliating the area’s trees over the past couple of years, increasing their destruction by 1200 per cent from 2019 to 2020 according to the MNRF. The ministry, through its investigations into the gypsy moth outbreak, also says that this year could be the worst year yet. The committee pledged to work with other townships and ask Hastings County to work with other counties to petition the MNRF to spray for gypsy moths next spring before they become destructive.
At the committee meeting on June 14, Councillor Ingo Weise asked Mayor Carl Stefanski if anything had been done yet at Hastings County council with regard to the gypsy moth infestation this year in Limerick and the surrounding townships.
Stefanski said he had forwarded some information to county CAO Jim Pine and was waiting to hear back on any next steps the county would take. He wondered if the heavy rain we’d been having might get them out of the trees. Councillor Jan MacKillican, who was chairing the committee on behalf of Councillor Glenn Locke (who had to leave the meeting early), replied that while they don’t like rain, it would not be enough to get rid of them and they won’t peak until late June, so the damage will continue. She suggested that if a number of counties came together to appeal to the MNRF to spray for the gypsy moths in the spring, they might be successful.
“I think that’s the only way we can afford it. We’re not downtown Toronto or Quinte West,” she says.
The aerial spraying used by the MNRF utilizes a naturally occurring bacteria called Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kustaki) which eliminates the moths but is non-toxic to humans, pets, birds, fish and other insects.
MacKillican asked Stefanksi if that might happen, and he thought that it might, based upon the fact that all seven municipalities in North Hastings, including Limerick, had sent letters to the county, emphasizing the devastation the moths were causing to the trees, and the potential negative affects to tourism and economic development.
“Hopefully that will spur some action for next year, as the season is basically over in the next week or two
Cathy Bradley, the clerk and corporate communications officer with the office of the Warden and the CAO of Hastings County said that at the June 15 county finance property and personnel committee meeting, the committee recommended that the county council support the resolution from Centre Hastings ask the MNRF to conduct a massive surveillance program in the fall to uncover hot spots and show the density of the gypsy moth population in central Ontario. With this information they also want the ministry to coordinate with the municipalities to find a way to curb the spread of the moths in 2022.
“County council will consider the request for support of the recommendation at county council next week,” she says.
Gypsy moths were brought to North America from Europe in 1869 and once they escaped into the wild, they made their way into Ontario a century later. Once they hatch in mid-May, the caterpillars feed on a variety of hardwoods like oak, maple, basswood and poplar, and conifers like white pine, hemlock and blue spruce. They are known to have 300 known host plant species they munch on with 150 of them being preferred. Each caterpillar can eat one square metre of foliage before they pupate. Once that happens in mid-summer, the moths mate and lay eggs for the next year. The gypsy moth outbreaks usually last three to five years and occur every seven to 10 years.
MacKillican said that she had a number of people call her about the gypsy moth issue, and in fact had two calls that very day.
“We have a lot of constituents worried about this. We’re famous for our lakes and trees and it has the potential if this continues to kill the trees,” she says.
Gary Pattison, who owns the Old Hastings Mercantile and Gallery in Ormsby with his wife Lillian, says they’ve had some issues with the gypsy moths in trees around their store, but they’ve had little to no effect on business.
“We have had a few trees stripped of their leaves as unlike our home in Coe Hill, we hadn’t taken any measures to prevent that. Probably because we weren’t open, we never thought much about the few trees that might have been affected. I can say that without any of the preventative measures such as removing the egg sacs, taping and adding the Tanglefoot sticky stuff to the tape, our large oak tree right behind the store has been stripped, while the trees at home are doing much better,” he says.
Pattison said that June 19 was a different story, as the caterpillars may have been trying to get out of the heat.
“Today we are fighting off a parking lot full of [them]. They’re heading for cars and buildings. While that shouldn’t deter customers from arriving, this won’t exactly enhance their experience in downtown Ormsby,” he says.
The committee decided that the plan would be to get something going for next year, as it was too late to do anything effective to stop the gypsy moth infestation this year. MacKillican asked Stefanski what he thought they should do in addition to the township’s letter to the county. He replied that having a delegation request a meeting with the MNRF might be helpful as there is power in unity.
“All the townships in Hastings should get together and get the county to contact the MNRF,” he says.
Weise wondered about getting other counties involved as well, such as Renfrew County, that had also been having problems with the gypsy moths.
Stefanski agreed and said that perhaps they could get all the counties affected together to petition the MNRF.
“It’s difficult. It’s almost like a situation of joint and several liability. You know we’re all trying to push for something and nobody seems to be responding to it and we’re suffering,” he says.
Victoria Tisdale, the clerk and treasurer, said that quite a few municipalities across Ontario had addressed this issue and written letters to the province.
“Maybe if we take theirs and we contact the rest of the municipalities in the county and get a joint letter sent off to somebody in the province, the Ministry of the Environment or whomever needs to address this issue,” she says.
Weise also suggested getting in touch with Daryl Kramp, as he is the MPP for the area, to which everyone agreed.
Ultimately, the committee decided to take this back to council and have a further discussion on it, solidifying any actions they want to take going forward. At that point, they moved on to other business.
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times