VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic there’s a different type of outbreak happening in Metro Vancouver — experts and residents have noticed a surge in the population of a native moth species.
“Right now, we’re experiencing an outbreak of Western Hemlock Loopers and the Phantom Hemlock Looper. Both moths look similar, there’s some darker lines, but both moths are in an outbreak on the coast,” explains Babita Bains, provincial forest entomologist.
The Western Hemlock Looper has been particularly noticeable around the North Shore, but lately they’ve been spotted all across the Lower Mainland.
Within out management areas from Cap to Coquitlam, we’re seeing them in great numbers, but I’ve heard reports they’re everywhere else, which is not surprising given how many are in the North Shore forests,” adds Jesse Montgomery with the Metro Vancouver Regional District.
Both species of moths are native to the area, and outbreaks happen periodically.
The Western Hemlock Looper is currently in its second year of an outbreak.
With the western loopers it happens every 11 to 15 years. With the phantoms, our numbers are not there. It’s been more than a decade since we’ve seen an outbreak. With Western loopers, it’s quite cyclical, and we were due for one,” Bains notes.
While the pesky insects may bug you, they don’t sting or bite.
“They’re totally harmless, and the caterpillars harmless as well, they are completely harmless, it’s ok if they go into your home, they won’t eat or infest your sweaters,” Bains says.
In their caterpillar form – the moths feed on coniferous trees.
“We expect to see some tree mortality, but it’s just a part of the outbreak,” Bains adds.
“This is just a natural part of succession. It’s important for recycling of nutrients and trees, so a lot of the tree mortality we will see — there are benefits to it.”
The numbers should start to decrease by the end of the month.
“By the end of the month, you’ll see fewer moths, and by October the numbers will be low.”