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Spotted Lantern Fly could eat into Okanagan fruit and wine industries

The fly is not currently in B.C. but it has landed in Ontario
The Tree of Heaven is an invasive plant and the preferred nesting ground of the Spotted Lantern Fly. (RDCO photo)

If the Spotted Lantern Fly gains a foothold in B.C. it could devastate the Okanagan’s fruit and wine industry.

“It’s an invasive insect that loves fruit,” Dan Maja, chief bylaw enforcement officer, told the Regional District Central Okanagan Board at its Mar. 28 meeting. “Our grapes, our cherries, all fruit.”

The fly is not currently in B.C. but it has landed in Ontario. The insect has also been detected in 11 U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, where it has decimated the fruit and wine.

“We would like to not see that happen in the Okanagan,” Maja added.

The insect was recognized as an invasive species by the federal government in 2018 and is on the ‘“to-watch list” in B.C.

To make things worse, the fly’s preferred nesting ground is the Tree of Heaven, a fast-growing invasive plant brought to B.C. from China.

Maja was looking for board approval to add the tree and the fly to the RDCO’s noxious plant and pest control bylaws as invasive species.

“By adding Tree of Heaven as an invasive plant the RDCO can pursue enforcement before infestation of the Spotted Lantern Fly becomes an issue.”

The City of Kelowna recently amended its tree protection bylaw to add the tree, as well as Russian Olive and Siberian Elm. The City of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation are not part of the RDCO’s weed control program.

“They have a good neighbour bylaw, they do their weeds on their own,” said Maja. “We would love to take it over for them, we have a good program that has run for a number of years.”

Maja added that U.S. states are sharing their information about the Spotted Lantern Fly and Agriculture Canada is also considering plans dealing with the insect.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a sterile insect release like the coddling moth was, but whatever best practices are advised by the experts is what we would suggest homeowners should follow.”

The board approved adding the Tree of Heaven and Spotted Lantern Fly to the RDCO’s noxious plant and pest control bylaws.

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The Spotted Lantern Fly feeding on a grapevine. (RDCO photo)

Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Recently joined Kelowna Capital News and WestK News as a multimedia journalist in January 2022. With almost 30 years of experience in news reporting and radio broadcasting...
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