'They are quite the dickens to kill:'

·3 min read

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Tanya Craig has been battling invasive species in her garden for over a decade.

Craig, who is the program co-ordinator for the recreation, culture and events department for the Town of Stratford, planted yellow-flag iris in her garden over 10 years ago. At the time, she was not aware it was an invasive species.

“I made the horrific mistake of planting it and I’m still battling,” Craig told the SaltWire Network during an interview on Aug. 22.

Several years ago, Craig bought ivy. This time she made sure to plant it in controlled spaces. Despite this, traces were soon found on the natural greenspace close to her property by the Stratford Watershed Group.

“It was only about a foot long, but even so I was mortified. I went and dug it out and disposed of it, but even now I’m really worried what can escape my garden,” she said. “I’m still pulling it out on a weekly basis.”

Increasing threat

Garden centres on the Island sometimes sell invasive flower species, either because they don’t know or they don’t take the time to do the research, said Craig.

“I was really taken aback to find out a lot of nurseries just don’t take that responsibility of selling invasive species to unknowing gardeners who haven’t done their research ahead of time,” she said.

Flowers such as lupins can be destructive to natural green spaces, so it’s important to make sure they are planted in a controlled area.

“It’s not as destructive, but you’re still spreading a plant that is not native to P.E.I. and that can be a problem,” she said.

Invasive species are becoming an increasing threat to Island green spaces.

Some of the more recent plant and bug species to the province, Japanese knotweed and the Japanese beetle, have spread across P.E.I. at alarming rates, wiping out native plant life in natural areas and home gardens alike.

Source: P.E.I. Invasive Species Council

The Japanese beetle was first spotted in Stratford last year, but Craig only began to see them this year.

“When they arrived, it was astounding. You can see them flying above my grapevine ... and they are quite the dickens to kill,” she said.

Craig has stuck to using green methods, as the use of many pesticides is still banned in areas of Stratford. She also prefers using greener methods to spraying chemicals.

“I have pets and children, my grapevine is not worth the health of my family,” she said.

Japanese beetles are considered one of the most devastating invasive species in North America. They likely came to North America from Japan in 1916 during shipments of iris bulbs, according to researchers.

The insect was first identified on P.E.I. in 2009 on a campground between Charlottetown and Cavendish. Since then, the problem has only escalated, says the P.E.I. Invasive Species Council, with farmers now regularly observing the beetles eating their plants across the province.

Erica MacDonald, a co-ordinator with the council, told SaltWire Network on Aug. 19 that the number of reports of the beetles has increased dramatically this year, and the options for dealing with them are limited.

Few reports from the agricultural sector have been reported, with most being in urban areas.

The beetles are mostly attracted to roses but will eat most plant life if they do not have access to rose bushes. Some of the more at-risk plants are blueberries, peas, corn and lilies.

“They have a wide host range, something like a larva form will be eating grass, but the adults will pretty much eat anything,” she said.

Integrated pest management is needed for dealing with the beetles. Chemical sprays, although effective, are not recommended by the Invasive Species Council.

“It’s always going to be a battle, but more than one method should be implemented for sure,” she said.

Reports of invasive species can be made to peiinvasives@gmail.com or through the iNaturalist or EDDMapS apps.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian