Japanese Beetle Stakeholder Update - A Very Serious Threat to the Golf Industry

As previously reported, an initial meeting between the Canada Food Inspection Agency and industry stakeholders took place early January to discuss the Japanese beetle incursion into Vancouver and the inevitability of its proliferation if left unchecked. 

Well known as a highly destructive insect pest to multiple field and ornamental crops, consensus was affected industries should make independent recommendations, based on their needs, to the CFIA, the government agency responsible for protecting Canadian ecosystems and agri-business.

Three proposed solutions were presented by CFIA at the initial meeting:  eradication, regulatory management and deregulation, with the second option defined as managing and slowing the pest by implementing surveillance and new rules while the third option was defined as declaring Canada infested and removing Japanese beetle from the regulated pest list.  

While deregulation was put forward as an option, it was not considered seriously because of the negative and costly affect to Canadian exports.  Regulatory management, as commented by one group, “Is the do-nothing approach”.

CFIA provided a series of pros and cons for each option and while Sharon Christie, CFIA Regional Chief Inspector stated by follow-up email, “We understand this pest poses significant concern to a variety of stakeholders,” the agency made it clear they were not interested in taking responsive action to the incursion as indicated in the following rationale:

Limited success to date of eradication programs with similar beetle population sizes in the Western USA, despite their larger suite of control products.

We do not believe the combination of chemical and biologic products (ie. Btg), desirable for success to treat all properties, will be available from the producers, or registered for required timing even with the emergency registration process.

We do not believe there would be support for forced chemical treatment with sheriff or RCMP on any refusals for private lands, school or playground zones.  These could be significant in this downtown area. Any refusals of a chemical treatment, would leave potentially infested areas untreated undermining the overall success of a true eradication.  The only current biologic alternative is not effective for eradication.

We expect from others’ experience, even with the treatments applied/proposed, we may have thousands of beetles emerge in 2018.  As this pest is a notorious hitchhiker, (as experienced with the find at UBC) we strongly suspect that beetles would leave the treatment zone compromising eradication efforts.

We expect that there will be more frequent introductions of this pest as it spreads west in North America.

Another stakeholder meeting was held January 18th, hosted by the BC Landscape Nursery Association and Canadian Nursery Landscape Association with the disclaimer that neither group intended to take a lead role in presenting a group recommendation to the CFIA.

With that, industry representatives in attendance learned the City of Vancouver Parks Department was planning to take action but pesticide politics within the municipal government could make the treatment process unpredictable.  An eradication order from CFIA however, would make the City legally responsible to take action.

While CFIA seemed worried about treatment expense in particular, industry representatives quickly pointed out that lack of government involvement would in essence, download significant future costs to industry including ongoing control measures, revenue loss and damage repair.

In the present, Vancouver Parks was expecting to bear initial treatment costs and suggested there would likely be funding for public education.  It was noted residential properties in the affected area, ie. stratas, had a vested interest and may pay for their own control.  An active containment strategy was discussed but the group acknowledged there wasn’t much on the market in terms of pesticides to control this pest.

With the looming deadline of January 20, several organizations responded to CFIA with their recommendations including the WCTA.  CLICK HERE FOR OUR LETTER.  The BC Landscape Nursery Association also strongly indicated an eradication approach is needed as did the Allied Golf Association of BC and other organizations.

Spearheaded by the Invasive Species Council of BC, a call-to-action meeting took place March 13th with the purpose of bringing key partners together to share information on Japanese Beetle and build a joint Call-to-Action plan with recommended roles, responsibilities and actions to suppress and eradicate [the Japanese beetle] from Vancouver.

The full day meeting included a complete background review of the Japanese beetle and its 2017 discovery in Vancouver, potential impacts to industry/trade and a discussion of treatment options/potential control strategies.

Lessons from previous insect infestations were shared, like the Gypsy moth and European chafer, the latter as commented by one WCTA member heavily involved with the Invasive Species Council of BC, “With over 200 plants in its host range including the grub stage in turf, this bug has the potential to make the chafer beetle look pretty tame.”

Other key components of the meeting included discussion of lessons learned from neighbours such as a review of actions taken in Oregon and other areas, tools and regulatory options available, what roles different organizations can undertake, resources needed, outreach/engagement needs for key stakeholders and any other actions or recommendations.  The question ‘What actions do we want to take in BC?’ summarized the meeting’s goal of identifying next steps toward building a collective call-to-action plan.     

New WCTA Director, Jed McGeachie attended the meeting, confirming the City of Vancouver requires an order from the CFIA to spray for the beetle and that the order should be issued sooner rather than later.  He noted there is a collective call for assistance from all stakeholders as they would like to be spraying within a few weeks, ie. communication, funding, provision of product, spray applicators, equipment, etc.  It was recognized the eradication effort would be sizable albeit localized currently and there is an expectation from other groups the WCTA is involved since this is a turf pest.

Subsequent to the March 13 meeting, a draft call-to-action plan was presented to stakeholders for comment, a working committee was created and a weekly meeting schedule of the committee has been initiated with plans to continue meeting until spraying begins.

On April 18th, a Japanese beetle economic risk analysis performed by the BC Ministry of Agriculture in September 2017 for CFIA was circulated to stakeholders as follows:  CLICK HERE FOR FULL REPORT

Name: Japanese Beetle, Popillia japonica (Newman)
Origin, biology, hosts:
• Japanese beetle is a scarab beetle that is native to Japan. It was first introduced to North America in 1916 in New Jersey.

• It is present in Central and Atlantic Canada, and in 36 states in the US. Japanese beetle is not established in British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces, or in the Pacific and Mountain regions in the US.

• There is one generation per year. Adults emerge from the soil in late June and begin to feed; egg laying occurs in July. Eggs hatch in two weeks and grubs feed on plant roots. As soils cool in the fall, the grubs move deeper in the soil.

• Larvae feed on the roots of grasses and adults feed on over 300 species of plants. Egg laying and larval survival are greatest in moist areas; i.e., irrigated turfgrass.

Risk Rating Details
• Establishment Potential: HIGH; British Columbia is well-suited for Japanese beetle establishment due to the favourable climate and presence of host plants.

• Spread Potential: HIGH; the number of areas in the west that have dealt with Japanese beetle introductions in recent years (e.g. California, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington) is solid evidence of the potential for the pest to spread to British Columbia

• Environmental Impact Potential: MODERATE

Japanese beetle is one of the most devastating pests of urban landscapes. The larvae prefer to feed on the roots of grasses, which can result in wilting and yellowing of lawns and commercial turf (e.g. sporting fields, golf courses, sod farms). As the damage progresses, dead patches of turf can develop. Adult beetles feed on plant foliage, which causes serious defoliation and aesthetic damage to plants in urban landscapes and native areas. Overall, the damage can increase the risk of soil erosion and reduce the availability of forage and habitat for wildlife. It will also create safety issues for athletes using impacted sports fields.

In addition to direct damage to plants, the establishment of Japanese beetle in British Columbia will lead to an increase in pesticide use by the public and commercial growers, which could be harmful to pollinators and other non-target organisms.

• Economic Impact Potential: HIGH

There are several different scarab beetles that damage turfgrass. Few scarab invaders are established in British Columbia and, therefore, the impact of Japanese beetle is expected to be much greater in the Province than has been experienced in Ontario. If Japanese beetle establishes in British Columbia, there will be numerous economic impacts for the public and agricultural producers, and the overall economy of the province.

o Public: The public will experience increased costs to maintain residential landscapes and a potential reduction in property values as a result of damage to lawns and landscape plantings.  A recent study conducted by Virginia Tech found that a well-landscaped yard can increase the perceived home value from 5 to 12% (Niemiera, 2009).  Therefore, a modest 10% reduction in the perceived landscape value would reduce the price of the property up to $8,400, given an average house price of $699,000 (Canadian Real Estate Association).

o Agriculture: Japanese beetle will cause significant crop losses to commercial horticulture and forage crops if the pest is not effectively managed (see Table 1).  In response, producers will have to spend more on pest monitoring and treatment to manage the threat. Overall, potential crop damage caused by the beetles is estimated to cost producers $14.5 million, excluding damage to golf courses.

In addition to direct crop damage, nurseries in British Columbia will need to meet costly certification requirements to export into unregulated states in the US.  Even if nurseries meet the export requirements, some US clients may be unwilling to purchase BC-grown product due to the risk of introducing Japanese beetle.  The major markets for local nurseries are pest free areas in the Pacific Northwest.  Establishment of Japanese beetle in the province will threaten live plant exports to the US, which had a value of $90 million in 2016 (Statistics Canada).

o Golf Courses: The golf course sector may have the most to lose if Japanese beetle becomes established in the province.  Japanese beetle is a major pest of turfgrass and feeding can lead to wilting, yellowing and ultimately the death of turf.  The quality of turf on fairways and greens is critical for the success of a golf course.  If beetle damage harms the aesthetics or playability of a course, golfers will be discouraged from playing the course.

 The US Department of Agriculture (2015) estimates cost to control Japanese beetle is more than $460 million a year in the US.  The cost to replace damaged turf alone is estimated at $156 million.

In 2014, the annual revenue from golf and related activities was estimated to be $849 million for British Columbia (Economic Impact of Golf in Canada, 2014).  Further, the total direct economic activity resulting from the local golf industry is estimated to be $2.88 billion (Economic Impact of Golf in Canada, 2014).  A conservative estimate of the direct cost of turf damage caused by Japanese beetle to golf course operations is $13.6 million.  The true economic impact would be significantly greater if the impact on associated businesses was included in the estimate.  Japanese beetle is a very serious threat to the golf industry and the economy of British Columbia.

Apr 3 meeting note summary:

1. Updates from CFIA
a. Still working on Draft Language of Regulation Order
b. Timeline for order, hoping for Week of April 9th?
c. Determining if an update could be issued mid-season
  • Regulated area should be updated once a year, possibly in December
d. Buffer zone-  minimum is 200 m but could be up to 800 m
e. For clarity, CFIA committed to surveillance and monitoring, will support in other aspects of a treatment plan but will not lead
  • Will work with government to provide EOC (emergency operations center)
  • Committing to providing sufficient traps, surveillance and order for movement regulation
  • Will support with regulatory tools, not actual proceedings
f. Able to sign ‘notice to treat’ issued to City of Vancouver  once Provincial Minster commits to treatment plan
g. Sufficient traps confirmed with BCPPAC; recruitment underway for surveillance, developing communication products for surveillance
h. Acelepryn is in place, costs covered by FLNRORD
  • Acelepryn used as it targets easiest life stage, foliar very difficult as don’t know concentrated areas of adults (where they are feeding) and in an urban setting

2. Updates from Ministry of Ag
a. Letter drafted to be signed by Minister of Ag, then will be sent off to Federal Minister
  • Looking to MOECSS and FLNRORD for letters of support
  • Need federal Minister of Ag to support placement of order for movement control and regulatory control, and leverage an notice to the city

3. Updates from City of Vancouver
a. waiting to see if order is issued
b. hoping to get GIS to help coordinate maps, non-city areas present challenge

a. Advantageous with some private lands as European Chafer is also treated when treating for JB, maximizes investment in property
b. Paraspace does majority of landscaping of private lands in area, will determine other landscapers and need to collaborate with them
c. Would like a CFIA representative come to owners/managers of land for communication

Apr 10 meeting note summary:

1. Updates from Province of BC- Status of decisions and actions for eradication
a. Met with minister yesterday, additional concerns of Bioaccumulation were raised.
  • Minister was assured this won’t happen as acelepryn is quite safe.
  • Anticipate letter from provincial agriculture Minister to federal agriculture Minister will be signed today/tomorrow.
  • Letter states the intent of the province to lead the eradication, includes a request to federal minister to issue a Notice to Treat, and supports the stop movement order.
  • Action: MAL to ensure letter is signed and submitted to federal minister.
b. Movement buffer will be 800m; treatment buffer is 200m.

2. Update from CFIA on status of Order to stop movement and ‘Notice’ to treat for city 
a. Order to stop movement
  • Draft text of ministerial order is nearly complete and memo to Minister is ready to go. The Order includes above ground plants infested or likely to be infested, as well as soil.
    o June 15 – Oct 15 regulation for above ground plant part movement restriction.
    o Soil would still be regulated year-round.
  • Hoping to have text of the order finalized Thursday and then it will move forward for approvals. Provincial Minister’s letter will expedite the movement order.
  • Action: CFIA to finalize Order and move forward for approval.
b. Notice to Treat for City of Vancouver
  • 200 m buffer from any location where JB was found; smaller zone practical for treatment.
  • CFIA required written confirmation from province that they would lead eradication. This is provided in the Ministers Letter. If required CFIA will ask the minister to confirm by email.
  • Wording is under development for the Notice.
  • Action: CFIA to finalize Notice to Treat pending receipt of ministerial letter.

3. Updates from Province of BC for treatment planning (including update from BCPPAC)
a. Draft treatment plan nearly complete by BC PPAC; meeting later the week to finalize details.
  • Working on simple, straightforward, enabling wording for the order and will provide details in appendix.
  • Treatment plan considers spring and fall treatment options.
  • Notice to Treat only applies to City lands but we need to enable private landowners to treat as well. Multiple options for providing treatment.
  • Action: BC PPAC to finalize treatment plan.
b. Alternate treatments other than acelepryn (spring); nematodes will be used (fall)
  • MVRD may have to add wording to the regional Drinking Water Conservation Plan to allow watering in of treatments. Chafer Beetle exemptions already allowed. City issues water exemption permits, but MVRD needs to know how much water will be needed
  • Action: Laurie will connect Tracy or Sophie with MVRD Water Services staff
c. Green Waste Bin program: how to fund and structure that limiting pathway of movement?
  • Is there some way that landscapers could propose a way to stop green waste from leaving the regulated area.
  • Could follow the City of Vancouver Green Bin for household waste program to develop one for landscapers.
    o Need direction on potential bin locations that can accommodate bin(s) as well as accommodate onsite grinding/chipping and loading into those machines.
    o Would a chipper be sufficient for above-ground materials? Will need tubgrinder ($$) for soil.
    o June 15 – Oct 15 landscape waste without soil can be stored within the regulated zone and treated intermittently as required. Or leave in regulated zone and not treat until after the October 15th regulatory date.  This may not be feasible due to space.
    o Turf and soil can never be moved out of the zone.
    o Good conversation to have with Jeff Foley, Paraspace.
    o Action: Sophie to meet with GMs to determine possible locations to place bins within the zone.
    o Action: CFIA to provide draft of bin program to City and BCLNA to augment discussions (not to be shared broadly).
    o Action: BCLNA to reach out to industry to determine who may have equipment (chippers/grinders/loaders) and who would be interested in contracting. Will also seek input on costs to operate.
d. How to enable treatment of private lands?
  • Would FLNRORD pay for private land acelepryn as well? Could have a rebate program, or have applicators ready to go?
  • There will be only an order for public lands, not private 
  • Are there contractors ready to go?
  • None organized for public land by city yet. Sophie needs order to treat.  Treatment will likely be contracted out, not done by the City.
  • BCLNA does have contractors for private lands
  • Action: BCLNA to approach contractors to build a list of suitable contractors to debrief at next meeting.

4. Communications planning
a. ISCBC Committed to leading and support for communication and will be developing a Communications Plan. ISCBC developing public webpage
b. BCLNA would like to reach out to their members and non-members directly
c. Action: Strike a communications group with communications representatives to define a communications strategy and approach. Include Province, CFIA, City of Vancouver, BCLNA, ISCBC, BCAC.
  • They develop strategy and approach for public comms
  • If they need detail for comms products, then refer back to committee
  • Action: ISCBC to organize a communications call within the next week.

Previous articles:
Japanese Beetle Stakeholder Meeting Held
Japanese Beetle Detected
Sep 1 notice from CFIA regarding the affected area and handling of Japanese beetle

Link to OMAFRA information page on Japanese Beetles in nursery and turf:  http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/92-105.htm