Wellington County is considering what — if anything — it should do to combat gypsy moth caterpillars that are devastating trees in some areas of the county.
At Thursday’s meeting, councillors discussed a motion from Erin Mayor Allan Alls to investigate the cost and practicality of aerial spraying next year. They ultimately decided to broaden the scope of staff’s research to include other potential methods of combating the invasive species.
Alls told the meeting Erin has been severely affected by gypsy moth caterpillars that have stripped the leaves from trees, some of which will never grow back.
“I’ve had nothing but phone calls on this from my residents who are quite concerned, why are we not doing something,” he said. “So all I’m asking for right now is a report that would address, is it (aerial spraying) practical? Is it safe to do so? What would the cost be?”
Ward 3 Coun. Campbell Cork said he’d also heard concerns about the insect from his Wellington North constituents, some of whom had hired private companies to spray. While he said he thought it was “totally appropriate” that people do that on their own property, he was “absolutely and utterly opposed” to aerial spraying where residents would get sprayed “whether they want it or not.” He suggested such a measure could put organic farmers out of business.
“I think if we want to look at a long period of litigation, go to mass spraying and we’ll get it,” said Cork.
Cork said in his experience, gypsy moth infestations are “part of the natural ebb and flow of nature.”
Meanwhile other councillors expressed hesitation about aerial spraying, but interest in looking at other actions the county could take.
“We can’t ignore this,” Ward 8 Coun. Doug Breen said. “We’re kind of in the early days of what happened with the ash trees and what happened with the elm trees, and we need to make sure we don't lose all our oak trees over this. So we need to make sure that we have the latest research and our staff have a serious look at it. This is not something to be fooled around with.”
County staff will prepare a report for discussion at a future council meeting.
Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com