gypsy moth

Toronto is enlisting helicopters to spray for invasive gypsy moths

If you live in Etobicoke and see helicopters hovering overhead and releasing a mysterious liquid next week, do not mistake it for yet another level of the dystopian nightmare that is 2020.

They're not sanitizing to prevent further pandemic spread or even killing off murder hornets (which thankfully aren't in Toronto... yet), but are actually protecting the local flora from an invasive species of moth.

Though the European Gypsy Moth — officially Lymantria dispar dispar — looks harmless enough, it is bad news for oak and other plant species in the city.

In caterpillar form, the insects feed on leaves in quantities large enough to damage swaths of trees, leaving them vulnerable to other diseases and the elements.

The bugs have also been known to infest areas to the point of overwhelming human residents and cringily "raining down" onto sidewalks and houses.

The moth was introduced to North America in the late 1800s, and has been a pest ever since — its impact here has been extensive enough to warrant a whopping 777-page research paper, among other studies, on the subject.

So, to prevent any undue destruction, the city will be spraying a biological insecticide from low-flying helicopters to fight the moth population in Ward 2 – Etobicoke Centre starting on May 26. 

The spray consists of a naturally-occurring bacteria that affects gypsy moth larva, and is not dangerous to humans or other wildlife. More hands-on, labour-intensive measures like physically banding, scraping and even injecting trees will also be taken across the city.

So, as spooky as helicopters flying low and spraying the area may look, it is not actually cause for alarm. But if it was, at this point in the year, would we even be surprised?

Lead photo by

CharlesC


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