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Gander has bugs on the brain

A volunteer sets one of the spruce budworm trackers. More than 50 trackers and 400 citizens scientists are participating in this year’s program, including the Town of Gander.
A volunteer sets one of the spruce budworm trackers. More than 50 trackers and 400 citizens scientists are participating in this year’s program, including the Town of Gander.

GANDER, NL - The Town of Gander has announced that it will once again be partaking in the spruce budworm tracking program.

The program, which seeks to monitor the rise and spread of budworms, is entering its third year.

According to Dan Lavigne, supervisor for insect and disease control and monitoring section with Forestry and Agrifood, Newfoundland has reason to be invested in this program.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned about budworms considering what’s happening in Eastern Canada. Budworms have been moving into portions of New Brunswick,” said Lavigne. “If you look at what historically has happened, starting in 1972, 90 per cent of our spruce fir forest was affected.”

Lavigne explained that this outbreak destroyed 25 years of lumber and he is concerned the same could happen again given the growing population of budworms. The most recent outbreak began in Quebec in 2006 and has been spreading eastward.

In fact, on Tuesday, a hive of the insects took off from the Gaspé area so large that it was spotted by radar.

“We know from studies in the ‘70s that they recorded groups flying all the way from New Brunswick to central Newfoundland,” said Lavigne.

Spruce budworms are widely considered the most destructive insects in North America.

The real damage is caused by the caterpillars, which feed on the fir and spruce needles.

Outbreaks can last several years, destroying tens of millions of hectares of trees and cumulate in defoliation for large areas.

Heather Spicer, the provincial leader for the program, noted there are 50 participants involved in tracking this year.

Approximately 400 citizen scientists across six provinces will be working to analyze and manage the spread of spruce budworms.

Twitter: @joshrjhealey

josh.healey@ganderbeacon.ca

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