Coddling moth program finding success

Sterile Insect Release program in Kelowna and area working to control pests

The program aimed at keeping the coddling moth under control is working.

The program aimed at keeping the coddling moth under control is working.

A region-wide initiative remains focused on keeping a tiny bug under control.

The Sterile Insect Release program reports that the use of pesticides for codling moth was down 94 per cent in 2016 and 93 per cent of all apple acreage had less than 0.2 per cent of damage from the insect.

“The program is realizing success. We keep getting progressively cleaner,” said Melissa Tesche, acting general manager.

SIR was started in 1991 and the goal is to control the impact of the invasive codling moth on the apple and pear industry in the Okanagan and Similkameen regions.

The program includes the use of sterile moths and mating disruption, as well as population monitoring, enforcement and education.

Along with orchards, SIR also ensures codling moth isn’t in residential trees.

There are about 2,600 buffer sites between orchards and urban areas, but very few were infested in 2016.

“It’s not that we don’t want backyard trees, we just want them clean,” said Tesche, adding that moths in residential trees can spread into nearby orchards.

Tesche believes the general public supports SIR because it leads to reduced pesticide use in their neighbourhoods.

“People desire this pastoral lifestyle and living among orchards. There is increased environmental awareness and people care about how their food is grown,” she said.

Moth infestations can also negatively impact the tree fruit industry, which is economically important in many communities.

“Agricultural pests are a regional problem that need area wide control. There is a relevancy to the program,” said Tesche.

During a recent survey, most of the 506 respondents were willing to pay for SIR through property taxes (the program is also funded through a parcel tax on orchardists).

There is no tax increase planned for 2017 and the last hike was 2010.

The program’s annual operating budget is $3.2 million, and alternate funding sources such as selling moths to other countries, such as New Zealand.

“We are trying to get some senior government grants back into the program,” said Tesche.