Neighbours looking for action on invasive bugs

Siberian Elms planted on the Hwy. 97 right-of-way loom over homes on Larkspur Place.

An Osoyoos neighbourhood is raising the alarm about a new invasive species — one that emits unpleasant odours when crushed and leaves its poop on doors and windows.

A number of Larkspur Place residents made a visit to Council’s July 3 meeting to share their frustration with Elm Seed bugs — little critters that are native to Europe and the Mediterranean region and first reported in Canada in Kelowna in 2016 — and their tree host, the Siberian Elm.

Although not given an opportunity to speak to Council, the small group did garner a visit with Mayor Sue McKortoff after the meeting.

“We live in a cul-de-sac that borders Hwy. 97,” explained Marilyn Mulldoon. “Our issue is a provincial issue, not a Town issue. However, I’m seeing elms all over the city. They’re down at Haines Point. They’re over at Peanut Point — at least they were: a bunch of trees were taken down — and they’re becoming a bit of a nuisance in town.”

Mayor McKortoff later recounted seeing the trees on the “east side of town and up at the golf course.

“And I’ve got bugs in my house, too,” she added.

The Siberian Elm (or Ulmus pumila) isan invasive species that was introduced from Asia and is found mostly in the South Okanagan, especially in and around Osoyoos.

The elms the Larkspur neighbours are complaining about are located on the Hwy. 97 right-of-way adjacent to their properties, which is administered and maintained by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

“We have been in touch with the provincial highway (department) several times now,” said Ms. Muldoon. “We haven’t had a lot of success.”

Hence the visit to Council

“Notwithstanding the elm trees are on provincial property, it’s our houses that are being affected and those houses are all on Town of Osoyoos land,”explained Glen Hamilton.

Following a quick meeting with the neighbours, Mayor McKortoff went to work on their behalf, doing a little research and raising the issue with a MOTI representative several days later during a Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board meeting.

“(MOTI has) agreed to send somebody down to look at the trees and decide whether they were dangerous — not whether they had seeds on them — but if they were dangerous and might fall over,” she said of that discussion.

“Some of the trees are up quite high into the power lines and that’s quite dangerous and if there are some some that are rotting or old and ready to fall over this would be a good time to take them down.”

She added she sees the best route forward within the community as one of raising awareness.

“It’s not the town’s job to go over and get rid of bugs and trees on private property. We can certainly suggest things and we will advocate for them but we cannot get rid of them,” she said.

“And we do recommend people try to get rid of the elm trees, because they grow like weeds around here.”

According to the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, Elm Seed bugs are not agricultural pests but can be a nuisance in high numbers because they enter homes and businesses.

They emit unpleasant odours when crushed and their fecal droppings on structures such as doors and windows can be unsightly.

Adult bugs are 6.5 – 7 mm long, black and rust- red coloured with a black triangle bordered by a rusty coloured triangle on the back. The outer margins of the abdomen have contrasting black and white bands.

Immature stages (nymphs) have a black head and a red abdomen; older nymphs have wing buds and two black spots on the back of the abdomen.

Elm seed and Tuxedo bugs do not bite people.

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