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Surrey battles sap-sucking aphids 0

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

These soft-shelled bugs may be tiny, but their explosive reproduction rates and potential harm to trees has staff at Surrey City Hall coming up with new ways to eliminate them. (PHOTO CITY OF SURREY)

These soft-shelled bugs may be tiny, but their explosive reproduction rates and potential harm to trees has staff at Surrey City Hall coming up with new ways to eliminate them. (PHOTO CITY OF SURREY)

The population of sap-sucking insects in Surrey thriving on the underside of leaves — and potentially killing younger trees in the process — has been booming as the south Fraser municipality’s trees age.

All previous attempts to curb the aphid population have failed, according to city manager of parks Owen Croy, adding that female variants can asexually reproduce clones of themselves at explosive rates.

Past countermeasures include using ladybugs to hunt down the soft-shelled insects, using sprayed soap-like insecticides to cover infested trees, or applying “sticky bands” to trap the ants that it attracts with its secretions.

But the number of complaints keeps growing, reaching 3,788 last year, Croy said. Now, aphids are the source of 87% of requests received by the city’s urban forestry section, partly because they also attract ants and wasps.

“It feeds on the juices of the leaves and it’s taking from the tree carbohydrates, sugars and the like, which are used by the trees to create new mass, to help shoots grow, to allow roots to grow and keep healthy,” Croy said.

Primarily, trees that line city sidewalks and boulevards are being affected. These include two species of oaks, as well as linden and basswood.

The latest attempt by the city to destroy the pests may now be an injected pesticide called Orthene, which would effectively kill any aphid that feeds on the chemically protected sap. However, it could also harm birds, bees and other mammals.

Croy said as long as the city injects the cure in late spring — when bees have finished pollinating oak tree flowers — there shouldn’t be any adverse effects. He also doesn’t believe there would be any real harm to mammals, including squirrels eating acorns.

Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne, in charge of the city’s environment committee, supports Croy’s plan to conduct a one-year trial of the new chemical, as long as the pesticide is used “sparingly.”

“It has to be used only in situations where the alternatives outweigh the potential detriments,” he said.

 

 

 

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