Spreading the Word on Japanese Beetle

When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) discovered Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) in Vancouver, the potential for economic and environmental damage posed by the invasive pest demanded a response.  As this pest affects as many as 300 plant species including roses, berries, tree fruits and grapes, consequences of the beetle becoming widespread could lead to significant agricultural and landscape losses.

“Japanese beetle is one of the most devastating pests,” explains Hedy Dyck, Chief Operating Officer of the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA). “And keeping it out of BC is crucial to continuing to support plant and pollinator health.”

According to the BCLNA’s research, agricultural producers could face numerous economic impacts if Japanese beetle were to become widespread, with significant losses in the organic sector in particular. In total, a recent economic impact study conducted by Roslyn Kunin & Associates identified potential damage and crop loss in BC could amount to $25 million annually.

With this potential impact, several agencies agreed to collaborate on a response effort.  Once an eradication strategy to help prevent the spread of the pest was approved, a coordinated effort was implemented which included the CFIA, BC Ministry of Agriculture, City of Vancouver, the Invasive Species Council of BC, the BCLNA and other stakeholders.

IAF expedited the application process to help BCLNA obtain funding through the Small Projects Program. This allowed BCLNA to hit the ground running in its efforts to engage stakeholders and launch a targeted awareness and outreach campaign to educate the industry on the new regulated areas and policies.

“This project allowed us to quickly and effectively communicate the issues and requirements regarding the infestation, including where the regulated area was, the new movement controls that were put in place and treatment plans, to the landscape industry, strata and commercial managers and owners, as well as the ag-hort sector,” says Hedy.

In addition to holding technical briefings and information sessions for growers, retailers and landscapers, the BCLNA also offered ongoing updates on eradication efforts through a dedicated webpage, weekly e-blasts and social media posts, and distributed more than 750 informational packages to local landscapers on the infestation, regulatory actions, treatment plans, temporary transfer station, and more to help prevent the spread of this pest by restricting the movement of plants and soil out of the regulated area.

As a result of the project, and the efforts of the City of Vancouver to set up a temporary transfer station for landscapers and residents to use, the industry immediately modified the disposal of green waste, and growers and retailers began educating customers and refusing returns from the Metro Vancouver area to stop the potential movement of potentially infected plant materials into the Valley.

While the BCLNA informed these sectors of the regulated area and eradication efforts, the Invasive Species Council of BC approached consumers directly with a strong message of environmental stewardship to help stop the spread of this invasive pest.

“Having the Invasive Species Council of BC provide public information on this issue helped people understand that involved stakeholders had agreed that eradication and treatment was the right thing to do and to get the public’s support in this effort as well,” explains Hedy.

For Hedy, this kind of collaboration was key in the project’s success, allowing a far more effective joint effort not only with communication but to also create processes such as a temporary transfer station and strategies to prevent the spread of the pest.  

“Funding for this project helped implement measures to prevent the spread from happening by enabling a swift response to a critical situation and equipped industry with resources to make procedural changes – the work, organization and collaboration of this project will serve as a model for future crises.”

Eradication efforts will continue in 2019 as the BCLNA continues to work with stakeholders to enhance the prevention efforts established in 2017 and 2018.

Funding: $17,460 through the former federal-provincial Safety Net Fund (A0876 SP, A0879 SP)