Some central Alberta communities grappling with caterpillar infestation

Source: Cassandra Jodin, May 28, 2018

WATCH ABOVE: Some communities north of Edmonton are dealing with caterpillar infestations this spring. Vinesh Pratap takes a look at what’s going on.

Some communities north of Edmonton are dealing with a creepy-crawly problem.

They’ve found themselves to be infested with tent caterpillars, hundreds — sometimes thousands — found on the sides of houses, on decks and trees.

Tina Burback is the manager of Greenland Garden Centre. She said the critters go through a seven- to 10-year cycle with their populations.

“When we do tend to see a lot more of them is when we might have had large egg sacks over winter — in the milder winters — so that helps drive the numbers up,” she said on Monday. “[It could also be because of] natural predators not being as high in numbers perhaps, [not] taking care of them.”

But the good news is they’re not a threat to vegetation.

“They rarely will do damage on an incredible scale,” Burback said.

Any forestry expert would tell you that this is not something that we need to worry about, and that our forests are actually designed to handle these big cycles that come in. Even if you see a lot of defoliation those trees will bounce back, they will leaf out next spring.”

Burback suggests the best way to get rid of the caterpillars is by mechanical methods like a rake, hose or pressure washer.

But if you do want to kill the bugs, she urges against using chemicals.

“When we’re using the chemicals, we have to remember that everything that’s sprayed on those tent caterpillars, if… they (the caterpillars) are dead and laying there, then the birds will definitely come in to pick them up and feed on them.

“Those chemicals are just as harmful to the birds and other beneficial insects like the [ground] beetles, so that in turn will actually harm them and really decrease those populations.”

Instead of using chemicals, Burback said there is a natural product called BTK (The “kurstaki” variety of bacillus thuringiensis) is specifically designed to kill caterpillars. According to the B.C. government, it has no “known toxic effects on humans, other mammals, plants, birds, fish, honeybees or other beneficial insects.”

– With files from Global News’ Vinesh Pratap