VICTORIA — The B.C. government is planning an insecticide spraying program this spring to target invasive spongy moths, formerly known as gypsy moths.

The Ministry of Forests says the spraying is planned for the Greater Victoria area and Vancouver Island communities of Courtenay, Campbell River and Port Alberni.

The ministry says in a statement the spraying is aimed at minimizing the risks spongy moths pose to forests, farms, orchards and urban trees and to prevent the moths from becoming permanently established.

It says spongy moth caterpillars defoliate trees and if they become established, many tree species including Garry oak, arbutus, fruit, nut and ornamental varieties will be affected.

The ministry says it will spray the biological insecticide known as Foray 48B, which is used in organic farming and has been approved for use in Canada since 1961 after repeated scientific studies concluded the treatment poses no threats to people or animals.

The ministry says a record number of male spongy moths were trapped across B.C. last year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2023.