Vancouver’s Moth Influx No Cause For Panic

By Ben Hamill - September 17 2020

Vancouver’s Moth Influx No Cause For Panic

They’re not exactly butterflies and represent to many people somewhat of an “acquired taste” as far as in-house hospitality goes. And what’s worse – they’re literally all over Vancouver from seemingly out of nowhere. Moths. Millions of moths. But, apparently, no cause at all for alarm.

Judging from recent social media posts, most residents of Metro Vancouver have started noticing what could easily be interpreted as something of a pre-apocalyptic plague. Luckily however, according to those in the know, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the sudden influx of western hemlock loopers (that’s their “real” name). And also, they’re pretty harmless as far as threatening human life as we know it is concerned.

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Bad News For B.C.’s Forests

Known to every 11 to 15 years experience an outbreak on B.C.’s coast, and roughly every 20 years in the province’s interior, their “short-lived” influx does however pose definite threats to British Columbia’s forests. This due to the fact that western hemlock loopers feed mostly on hemlock trees (hence the little critters’ name), and Douglas fir trees – all of which typically results in a significant decimation of foliage and a resultant decline in the availability of timber. Wildfires too, pose a definite threat.

What’s worse – western hemlock loopers often don’t operate alone. They can often be seen conspiring with bark beetles; a dark and ghastly association that typically leads to high levels of tree mortality especially in plantations older than 80 years.

The good news is that British Columbia does have in place certain strategies for dealing with outbreaks of all sorts and varieties – including, incidentally, western hemlock loopers. These strategies range from bio-friendly insecticides to the planting of mixed-species forests known to be not quite as attractive to moths than what are forests largely populated by hemlocks and Douglas firs.

But, true to the precarious nature of present-day circumstance, this year’s outbreak is according to entomologists (they know all about moths and creepy-crawlies) shaping up to be significantly more intense that of previous years. And so much so that roughly 2,000 hectares of B.C. forest is estimated to already be hugely at risk in every moth-related conceivable way. 

Relief By October

More good news – for forests, not hemlock loopers – is that moths typically die off the minute colder weather starts setting in. This obviously means that Vancouver Metro residents can expect to see a great deal less of the fluttering little critters by at least halfway through October.

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