Last month, the Six Nations Wildlife Management Office released a Gypsy Moth Aerial Spray Program Update to Facebook reading:
“Gypsy Moth infestation has been a community issue for a number of years on Six Nations, with the last spray purges taking place approximately 5 years ago. Gypsy Moth egg mass infestation was identified via surveys in February and March 2019, revealing the need for delivery of this spray program going forward to combat the infestations. The Six Nations Wildlife Office is working with Paul Robertson from Trees Unlimited and Dan Haupt from Zimmer Air Services Inc. to design spray program parameters.
Spraying will begin soon to treat the Gypsy Moth infestation on Six Nations. Typically, the spray program starts near the end of May, once trees have completely filled out their leaf foliage; however it may be slightly later this year due to a lack of consecutive warm days. The spraying will be undertaken by Zimmer Air Services Inc. Zimmer Air Services Inc. will make two applications, each lasting approximately 3 to 5 days with a 5 to 7 day separation period, before continuing with the second spray application. Zimmer Air Services Inc. will be using one small plane and three helicopters flying extremely low to complete the computerized spray program. It is important to note that the aircrafts will be flying at much lower altitudes (hovering close to 100 ft. above the tree canopy) in order to acquire accurate spray patterns and complete coverage.”
The Gypsy Moth is native to Europe and allegedly first arrived to the United States in Massachusetts in 1869. This moth is a significant pest because the caterpillars have voracious appetites and will feast upon more than a variety of 300 species of trees and shrubs, which poses an obvious threat to North America’s forests.
While there are many chemicals labeled for use on gypsy moths, only four chemicals are allowed under the Federal Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that guides all publicly funded gypsy moth treatments. These four chemicals are Btk, Dimilin, Gypchk, and Mimic. Many other chemicals can be used to effectively control gypsy moths, but because the potential to harm other species is considered too great, they are not recommended for widespread use.
Although SNEC did not specify which chemical spray was used, it is likely that it is one of the four regulated public options as Zimmer Air Services has listed Btk products. Thus, the unregulated insecticides is the spray that everyone should be wary of.
With majority of insect studies being conducted in Europe and only parts of North America, entomologists have come up with percentages and declines in insect populations that may not be as widely conclusive as they could be if the study funds were available.
What entomologists have found however, is that 40 per cent of insect species populations are in decline and they have found that the main cause of insect decline is agricultural intensification.
This would be the elimination of all trees and shrubs that are normally found surrounding farmers fields, but now there are plain, bare fields that are treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The demise of insects appears to have started at the dawn of the 20th century, and accelerated during the 1950s and 1960s and reached “alarming proportions” over the last two decades.
As new classes of insecticides were introduced in the last 20 years, which include neonicotinoids and fipronil, the insecticides have been particularly damaging as they are used routinely and persist in the environment by sterilizing the soil. This has leaking effects even in nature reserves nearby as 75% insect losses recorded in Germany were in protected areas.
We cannot forget that the loss of insect species causes ecosystems to starve and looking at the decline rate, it is rapid. The 2.5 per cent rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is equivalent to; in 10 years there will be a quarter less, in 50 years only half and in 100 years there will be none.
As the low-flying helicopters that you might have seen have the accountability of SNEC to control the gypsy moth infestation, it is the use of unregulated insecticides that are causing a plummet in the overall number of insects.