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Public asked to help combat spread of Douglas fir tussock moth

The Province is asking the public not to take firewood from the Wycotte Flat area due to an outbreak of Douglas fir tussock moth.

Douglas fir tussock moths can cause significant damage and mortality to Douglas fir trees. In a severe infestation, trees can be killed in one to two years. Moth caterpillars can also pose a human health risk, as the hairs on the caterpillars’ bodies can cause allergic reactions.

Wycotte Flat lies south of Alkali Lake and includes the Dog Creek Airport area. Tussock moths typically prefer more southern areas with lower elevations, such as Kamloops and the Okanagan. The Wycotte Flat outbreak is the furthest north the moth has been recorded.

To limit further spread, the public is advised to avoid removing wood from the infested area. Tree limbs are particularly infectious, as they may contain eggs.

Tussock moth caterpillars feed on the needles of Douglas fir trees, eventually stripping and killing them. Affected trees may appear scorched, with a reddish-brown colouring, due to the loss of needles. Trees that are weakened by such infestations are also more susceptible to Douglas fir beetle attacks.

Caterpillars hatch in late spring and are active through May and early July. Adult moths appear from late July to early September. Female moths lay approximately 200 eggs each, which hatch the following spring. Outbreaks typically last two to four years.

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development staff are assessing the affected area and will proceed with a treatment plan once the caterpillars re-emerge in 2020.

Quick Facts:

  • Tussock moth caterpillars can be recognized by their distinctive long black tufts. Two tufts are located on the insect’s head, with another at the rear. Caterpillars begin hatching in late spring. 
  • About one in five people is allergic to Tussock moth caterpillars, due to the thousands of tiny hairs covering their bodies. Symptoms of this allergic reaction, known as “tussockosis,” can include rashes, watery eyes and sneezing. People are advised to avoid touching the caterpillars and wash contacted areas after exposure.

Learn More:

For guides on recognizing and managing the spread of Douglas fir tussock moths in B.C., visit:

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