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North Okanagan farms plagued by armyworms: ‘They were totally voracious’

Armyworms eating up north Okanagan crops
Watch: Armyworms are plaguing north Okanagan farms and bee keepers are worried possible solutions will hurt their hives.

For the second year in a row, western yellowstriped armyworms are showing up in the north Okanagan.

The pests are eating into farm produce and profit, and to make matters worse, beekeepers are worried efforts to combat the worms will hurt their hives.

Last year was the first time Spallumcheen resident Al Price spotted the armyworm on his property.

“They were totally voracious. We’d never seen them here before,” said Price.

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This year, the pests are back eating into his hay and forcing him to harvest early to salvage part of the crop but reducing the quality and quantity of his hay.

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He’s far from the only one who has been hit by the pest.

The armyworms have been spotted on everything from vegetables to flowers.

Bruce Alain, who owns Jenny’s Garden in Spallumcheen, said the worms have been eating holes in many of his strawberries, making them unfit for sale.

He has buckets of ruined berries that he says he’ll have to send to the compost heap.

“For us, it is not really a major concern because it is more of a hobby, but if you were making a living at [farming], it would be probably a 30 per cent loss of [your] crop,” Alain said.

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The local township worried enough to coordinate a meeting with farmers and Ministry of Agriculture officials to answer questions about how to deal with the pests.

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However, beekeepers are concerned about the impact some of the insecticides recommended by the province, to battle the worm, could have on their hives.

“If those are sprayed on the bees they can be absolutely devastating,” said Mary Walkden, who owns Orchard Blossom Honey in Spallumcheen.

“We are hoping the farmers will bear in mind that the bees are out there in the heat of the day. Maybe they can spray later on in the day when the bees aren’t around.”

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The province said the insecticides it discusses as options are all registered by Health Canada and appropriate for use if the label is followed.

The Ministry of Agriculture said it is monitoring the armyworms and is looking into whether the worms are overwintering in the north Okanagan or if the moths fly in on wind currents in the spring.

The roundtable meeting discussing armyworms organized by the Township of Spallumcheen is scheduled for Wednesday, June 26 at 9 a.m. at the Centennial Auditorium located at 3305 Pleasant Valley Road in Armstrong.