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Beetle mania


May 5, 2009
By Marg Land


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In mid-April, Prince Edward Island joined the ranks of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) imposed restrictions on the movement of plants and soil from the island. The restriction was put in place in a bid to help control the spread of a new pest for the province – Japanese beetle.

In mid-April, Prince Edward Island joined the ranks of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) imposed restrictions on the movement of plants and soil from the island. The restriction was put in place in a bid to help control the spread of a new pest for the province – Japanese beetle.

According to the CFIA, the pest was detected on P.E.I. last year during a plant pest survey conducted by the agency. The survey indicated the Japanese beetle population was an established one, meaning regulatory control measures had to be put into place for the province.

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According to a recent report from the CBC, the CFIA doesn’t believe this new restriction will impact P.E.I. too severely. “Right now Prince Edward Island is surrounded by areas that are regulated for Japanese beetle, including Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and most of the eastern seaboard of the United States,” Dawn Miller-Cormier, the CFIA’s area network specialist for horticulture, is quoted as saying. She adds that material moving from P.E.I into those areas will not be restricted but material moving into Newfoundland and Western Canada will be.

The CFIA is also quick to point out there will be no compensation supplied to growers for any plants destroyed due to infestation by Japanese beetle.

Apple, berry, grape and tender fruit producers in eastern Canada are familiar with Japanese beetle, which was first discovered in North America in 1916 and found in Canada (Yarmouth, N.S.) in 1939. While turf is the favoured home of the pest in its larval stage, adults are the heavy feeders, damaging both the foliage and fruit of more than 250 host plants.

Just a few days before the CFIA’s announcement, a report was released by European researchers highlighting the financial cost invasive species – such as the Japanese beetle – have on agriculture and the environment. Using data from the Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe (DAISIE) project, the Spanish researchers examined terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates and put together a “Top 10” list of invasive species in Europe. While Japanese beetle was not on the list (Canadian geese were), the research did show that terrestrial invertebrates, such as insects and spiders, wreaked the most financial havoc, even though they had the narrowest range of effects. The authors estimated that the financial cost of crop losses due to alien insects in the United Kingdom is about $3.7 billion (US) annually.

The researchers stressed that the major issue for the management of invasive species is that their impacts are not all known. Only 10 per cent of invasive species in Europe are actually known to scientists and, although the U.S. and Canada understand the way invasive species disrupt agriculture and the environment, the countries still lag behind in creating an inventory of known invasive species.

“It is important first to continue exploring the impacts of ‘unknown’ species,” said lead report author Montserrat Vila. She added that once scientists have a more comprehensive idea of what makes an invasive species invade, then researchers can make better predictions about future damage.

The European researchers are suggesting that existing federal, state and local assessments in the U.S. (and Canada) would provide a good start for an inventory of the North American continent. The database could interface directly with DAISIE.

“We need to harmonize the existing information on impacts across species and across regions,” said Vila. “Then, finally, we will be able to create institutional bodies across sectors, such as agriculture … to tackle the prevention and management of impacts of biological invasions.”

It sounds like a good idea, especially considering the way the world appears to be “shrinking.”  Less than 100 years ago, no one in Canada had even heard of or seen a Japanese beetle, which is native to Japan. Now, almost half the country has restrictions placed on it because of a little beetle.


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