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City dealing with mosquitoes and invasive plants

Claire Watkins demonstrates the proper way to dispose of invasive species including leafy spurge (on the left with the yellow blooms) and burdock (at right). Homeowners are advised to bag any invasive species they find and take them to the landfill to help ensure they don’t continue to spread. City of Prince George photo

When the weather warms up, Prince George residents head outdoors to enjoy the beauty of our natural environment, whether by taking a walk through more than 100 kilometres of park trails, or heading into the back yard to mow the lawn or plant a garden.

For the past 25 years, the City of Prince George has run a mosquito control program aimed at making these experiences as pleasant as possible by reducing the number of mosquitoes that residents and visitors encounter while protecting our environment. Staff also work to decrease the number of invasive plants homeowners must contend with while tending to their lawns and gardens or walking in a city park.

One of the city staff members responsible for these areas is Claire Watkins, an environmental technician with the Environmental Service Division and 24-year employee at the City of Prince George.

How does the City of Prince George help to control pests like mosquitoes?

The City of Prince George’s program aims to reduce mosquitoes burden to humans. The City does this in ways that have the least impact on the environment. “Each year, mosquito control is contracted to a company that specializes in mosquito treatment. This includes treating prime mosquito habitat from the air using a helicopter,” says Watkins.

“The best way to control mosquito populations en masse is to nip them in the bud,” adds Watkins. “Crews treat mosquito larvae with a naturally occurring bacterial larvicide that only affects mosquito and black fly larvae. The larvicide is sparsely spread on water, which technicians have previously tested and found larvae to be present. Once sufficient number of larvae are identified, sites usually have a single treatment. The goal of the program is to treat mosquitoes in their larval stage. The City’s mosquito program does not deal with mosquitoes once they hatch into flying adults. In 2019, the City’s mosquito control program ran from April 25 through July 5 and 426 hectares were treated with just over 1945 kilograms of larvicide.”

Are mosquitoes a big problem in this area?

Fortunately, Prince George only needs to run a nuisance mosquito control program.

“We are lucky that the mosquito-borne diseases such as the West Nile and Zika virus have not been seen to exist in our area,” said Watkins. “One reason is that northern B.C. summers are not long enough to allow for the multiple mosquito generations necessary for these viruses to persist. For the city, mosquitoes are a part of living in the north and weather affects how good or bad our mosquito season is.”

What can residents do to reduce the likelihood their properties will become breeding grounds for mosquitoes?

Property owners can help in the effort to control mosquitoes by reducing or eliminating standing water on their own property.

“Standing water, such as that which can be found in old tires in the backyard, are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes,” said Watkins. “Changing the water in the pet’s dish, keeping gutters clean, putting a fountain in a pond and even filling in tire ruts are all ways to reduce mosquito populations.”

How does the city deal with invasive plants?

The city spends a lot of time and resources each year battling invasive plant species that invade our public green spaces. These invasive plants out-compete native plants and can negatively affect ecosystems, infrastructure, and people.

“By using an integrated pest management approach, the city ensures management using methods that are effective, environmentally sensitive, and financially responsible,” says Watkins. “Methods for dealing with invasive species may include anything from hand-pulling, digging, deadheading, mowing, or using herbicide.”

What is the latest invasive plant that the city is dealing with?

Currently, Prince George has a problem with common tansy, a yellow flowering perennial that is invading quickly.

“We need to rely on residents to help us by reporting locations and working to eliminate this plant on their property,” said Watkins. “Other plants we are concerned about include burdock, knotweed, and leafy spurge.”

Residents are encouraged to visit the Invasive Species of BC website to find a control method that best suits them.

What else can homeowners do to help?

“Know what is growing in your yard. Learn what plants are invasive and do not introduce them into your yard,” said Watkins. “Report locations of invasive plants to the city or the Northwest invasive Plant Council and above all else, dispose of invasive plants responsibly. Double bag invasive plants and take to the landfill – do not take it to compost or compost at home.’

Residents interested in all of the invasive species currently being monitored and controlled by the City of Prince George are asked to visit www.princegeorge.ca/invasive. Residents can also report an invasive plant online by using the app at www.reportaweedbc.ca or by calling 1-866-44WEEDS.

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