A provincial initiative to limit the impact of a destructive insect is expected to wrap up its operations in Cochrane this week.
A fleet of 15 aircraft — including 13 aerial application planes and two control aircraft — has been fly- ing regularly out of the Cochrane Airport since May 23 to spray a biological pesticide on five target forest areas in the region.
“We have been logging a lot of hours,” said Matt Clancey, director of ground operations with Forest Protection Limited, a New Brunswick-based company that is currently working for the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry.
The goal of the program is to control the population of spruce budworm, said Meghan Forbes, Regional Outreach Specialist for the MNDMNRF — not to eradicate it.
“It’s a naturally occurring pest in the boreal forest,” said Forbes.
“They have their place.”
She added that although the in- sect is always present, its population tends to skyrocket every 30 to 40 years. Since the larvae eat the needles of conifer trees — especially balsam fir and white spruce — the result of these population spikes is severe defoliation.