Coastal Invasive Species Committee

June 2016 E-News

In this issue you will find:

Coastal ISC News and Updates

Upcoming Events
People in Action for Invasive Species Month
Regional News
BC and International News
Resources and Tidbits


I -  Coastal ISC News and Updates

We've Moved!

In January of this year, the Coastal ISC moved to ‘Tin Town’ in Courtenay, an eclectic neighbourhood of metal-sided buildings housing artists, scientists, and just about everybody else in-between.  We’re sharing an office in the Conservation Centre with other like-minded people and organizations such as Project Watershed, the Comox  Valley Land Trust,  the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy, and the Tsolum River Restoration Society.  With that, we’ve got a new phone number and address: call us toll-free at 1.844.298.2532, or locally at 250.871.5117.

Coastal ISC Expands Program to Include Giant Hogweed Removal in the Comox Valley and Nanaimo Region

Back in 2013, the Coastal ISC in collaboration with the Town of Comox, City of Courtenay, Village of Cumberland and the Comox Valley Regional District launched an initiative to seek out and destroy invasive knotweed located within these jurisdictions. In 2014, the Nanaimo municipalities (Town of Qualicum Beach, City of Parksville and City of Nanaimo) jumped on-board and this year welcomed the Nanaimo Regional District and Lantzville.  

New to 2016, the program now includes giant hogweed, a poisonous invasive species that can cause severe burns when contacted with the skin.  Giant hogweed is an aggressive invader native to Southwestern Asia that was introduced as a garden ornamental.  Not only is it highly toxic, it also forms tall, dense canopies that crowd out low-growing native species resulting in decreased bank stability and erosion.  Please email the Coastal ISC at or phone us at 250.871.5117 to report any sightings of giant hogweed or knotweed.  

11th Annual General Meeting

On April 21st the Coastal ISC held its eleventh annual general meeting at Vancouver Island University.  The event had many highlights including guest speaker Jennifer Grenz, PhD (student) in Plant Science, UBC speaking about the unforeseen effects of hybridized knotweed,   The Coastal ISC Executive Director, Rachelle McElroy providing a snapshot of the work of the committee in 2015 and exciting peak into 2016.  

Jennifer Grenz Publications:                                                          
Jennifer has co-authored two papers on knotweed; one detailing how knotweed has invaded and hybridized to become a formidable species, the other detailing management strategies and potential biocontrol agents.  Links to the journal articles can be found here:
Knotweed Management Strategies in North America with the Advent of Widespread Hybrid Bohemian Knotweed, Regional Differences, and the Potential for Biocontrol via the Psyllid Aphalara itadori Shinji:
Knotweed (Fallopia spp.) Invasion of North America Utilizes Hybridization, Epigenetics, Seed Dispersal (Unexpectedly), and an Arsenal of Physiological Tactics:

Coastal ISC 2015 Program Highlights:
With such a large region to tackle, the Coastal ISC relies on contractors to bust priority invasive species in each management area.  In 2015, the Alienbusters were hard at work with 324 sites (25 hectares) under their belts managing priority invasive plants in the region including: Blueweed, Giant Hogweed, Hoary Alyssum, Hoary Cress, Garden Yellow Loosestrife, Milk Thistle, Sulphur Cinquefoil, Sweet Fennel, Wild Chervil, Orange Hawkweed, Poison Hemlock, Yellow Flag Iris and Knotweed (Japanese, Giant and Bohemian).  Aggressive "Knot on my property" local partnership programs in the Comox Valley and the municipalities in the Nanaimo Region engaged over 70 residents and managed an additional 108 Knotweed sites.

Education and outreach activities included community events, distributing outreach materials, enewsletter, getting the word out through the media (radio, TV and Newpaper) and providing invasive plant management support through a hotline (phone/email). New toll-free hotline 1.844.298.2532

Activities for 2016 are underway and a few are highlighted in this issue.

Stay connected!
If you have any questions or updates to share about invasive species projects, please contact us at, or call our toll-free hotline at 1.844.298.2532.   

To keep updated on Coastal ISC news and events, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and on our website.

II - Upcoming Events

June 16, 2016: Aquatic Invasive Species of Concern Workshop in Cariboo, Invasive Species Council of BC.  Billy Barker Casino Hotel, Quesnel BC.  11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Register on-line at  .

June 28, 2016:  Look out for the Coastal ISC info-booth on June 28th; we’ll be setting up shop at the Craig Street Market in Parksville from 6-9 pm as part of the annual Summer by the Sea Street Market event.  We’ll be there to answer any of your questions on invasive species; identification, their impacts, management strategies, and we’ll also be providing resources on different ways that you can help manage invasive species here on Vancouver Island. Avid gardeners will have a chance to get PlantWise and learn about alternatives to common invasive plants for their garden.   For more information on the event, please visit:

III - People in Action for Invasive Species Month 
May of 2016 was officially proclaimed Invasive Species  Action Month by the government of British  Columbia, and  as a result a number of initiatives to  combat invasive  species took place from a variety of  organizations.  Each week heralded a new theme:  week one focused on invasive  animals, week two focused on invasive plants, week three focused on  outdoor recreation, and week four focused on  aquatic invasive species. 
Invasive Species have far-reaching economical, recreational, and ecological implications.  They pose  human health risks, damage infrastructure, and  reduce  native biodiversity.  The government of  British Columbia recognizing this is a huge step in the battle for combating invasive species.  For more information on everything that went on, visit the official invasive species month website at:        

Broombusters in Oceanside

Broombusters, a group dedicated to removing scotch broom from Vancouver Island since 2006, kept busy by organizing 18 community cuts in the Oceanside community for BC Invasive Species Action Month in May.  Their goal is simple: “ordinary people who get out their loppers in May and June and cut down the flowering plants wherever we see them”.  Thanks to their efforts along with the dozens of volunteers that gave their time to help fight invasive species, Qualicum Beach is now 99% broom free.  Broombusters is eager to recruit new volunteers, and those interested in getting involved in future events can phone Broombusters at 250.752.4816.

Nanaimo Gets Involved with Invasive Plants Month 
The city of Nanaimo held a number of events all aimed at reducing and  eliminating the presence of  invasive species here on Vancouver  Island for  Invasive Plants Month.  Events included drop-offs for  invasive plants  requiring  proper disposal, a Broom Busters work party  at  Third Street Park, and an Invasives Work Party held at Oliver  Woods Park.  

Invasive species have negative recreational impacts as well as environmental and economical impacts.  Species like scotch broom  (an  aggressive invader) are known to cause allergy symptoms when  they bloom in spring.  Other species like english ivy can spread and  engulf walking trails.  The spines from gorse can puncture bicycle tires.  Carpet burweed can form large unsightly brown patches in recreational areas.  It's good to see our  cities taking such a positive stance on the threat of invasives!

Palm Beach Invasive Plant Work Party

On May 15th as part of Invasive Plant Month, Twenty-four volunteers from Powell River came out to Palm Beach and removed three hundred square meters of english ivy, english holly, and lamium.  Leading the pull was the Coastal ISC’s executive director Rachelle McElroy, along with invasive plant expert Ernie Sellentin, Sellentin's Habitat Restoration and Invasive Species Management.  A Special thanks goes out to the Powell River Regional District for their commitment to reducing the negative impact of invasive species by sponsoring this event, and to the Vegetation Station for profiling the pull.  Users can listen to the episode at:       


Scotch Broom on the Sunshine Coast

Local sunshine coast resident Tamara Litke, along with her  husband, son, and two UBC students, hauled out and  burned an  entire trailer and wagon-load of invasive scotch broom as part of  her ‘Beat Back the Broom!’ event in May.  Scotch broom is a beautiful but insidious perennial that  forms dense, impenetrable  thickets, preventing sensitive vegetation like the garry oak from  growing.  “It was a very  satisfying feeling”, says Tamara while reflecting on the  event; she is already planning her next  excursion.    Interested volunteers can contact her at


IV - Regional News

Parksville Sets its Sights on Gorse

The city of Parksville has begun targeting and  eliminating gorse within its city  limits.  Gorse is  particularly concerning due to its potentially long  lifespan (45 years), and ability to  produce up to 18,000  seeds per mature plant,  where each seed pod can remain viable for up to  40 years.  It spreads  vegetatively and by seed,  which can be dispersed by  water, wildlife, or disturbance. 

The city of Parksville will begin  treatment of individual plants mostly along  highway 19A near the resort, which will take place  sometime between now and April 1st depending on weather conditions. 

Invasive Species on the Sunshine Coast

On May 16th at the Sechelt Indian Band Community Hall, Jennifer Grenz, PhD student in plant science from UBC spoke with Sunshine Coast residents on the impacts that invasive plants have in BC.  Highlights of the talk included why invasive species are of concern, success stories of battles won over invasive plants in other regions of BC, priority invasive plants and treatment methods in the Sunshine Coast, proper disposal techniques, and when to start prioritizing treatment of particular invasive plants. 
V -  BC and International News

Western Canada Narrows in on Invasive Mussels

As of right now, zebra and quagga mussels have yet to invade the western-most parts of Canada, and a joint agreement between British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon is aiming to ensure that that doesn’t happen.  Aptly named, the ‘Inter-Provincial Territorial Agreement for Coordinated Regional Defense Against Invasive Species’ is a mile marker towards better communication and co-ordination between provinces and territories regarding aquatic invasive species.  Some preventative measures that the jurisdictions are planning include streamlined watercraft inspection stations that will avoid duplicate inspections when traveling from province to province, and more accessible resources for inter-provincial communication between invasive species agencies. 


Federal Government Targets Invasive Alien Species

This year the Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Task Force, along with the Canadian Council on Invasive Species held a workshop to collaborate on developing potential actions to improve alien species prevention and management in Canada.  Present at the workshop were 50 participants ranging from varying levels of government, non-governmental organizations, provincial and territorial invasive species councils, industry professionals, and academics.  The results of the workshop identified five key themes: the importance of developing further inter-judicial coordination between organizations, increased funding, stronger educational resources, enhanced emergency response actions, and overall the facilitation and collaboration of partnership between organizations.  The results from the workshop will be used to assist in future decisions made by the IAS in helping with the fight against invasive alien species.    

Using Drones to Seek out Invasives

February ushered the Annual General Meeting  of  the Invasive Species Council of BC, during  which  time many breakthroughs in the fight  against Invasive Species were discussed.   One of them, however, seemed to stand out from the rest; using drones to identify invasive  species in the field.  Catherine Tarasoff, an  Ecologist with Thompson Rivers University  was approached and encouraged  to try out  the new technology on a vast region of BC infested with yellow flag iris, and after two  days and  thousands of photos later, a high-resolution image of  the area was produced that even included GPS coordinates.  Drones could save money over time and prevent injury from potentially dangerous field work, enabling technologists unfamiliar with invasive species to be able to go in an area and find out what is invasive and what is not.    

VI - Resources and Tidbits

Reporting Alien Species  

 The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations has in place  two methods that allow anyone to be able to report an invasive alien species.  Individuals can download on their Android or iPhone the ‘Report-a-Weed’ app,  which allows  users to simply stand near the plant, pick what it is, and upload it  to the ministry’s  database. Additionally, the Invasive Alien Plant Program, or ‘IAPP’, is a computer-based application that allows you to search, locate and upload the location of any invasive species anywhere in the province.  Users can find more information at:  
Reporting invasive species has never been this easy! 

A Unique Approach to Handling European Fire Ants

The european fire ant is a relatively recent  invader to  BC, having moved its way west  across Canada from  Quebec in 1915.  Unlike  BCs native ant populations,  european fire ants  swarm rapidly and deliver a  stinging bite, sometimes resulting in allergic reactions requiring medical attention.  They form dense,  hidden  colonies in parks, lawns, and gardens,  compromising  the use of those areas by humans.  One approach  documented to be effective in finding and destroying nest sites has been outlined by Dr. Robert Higgins at Thompson Rivers University.  Using commercially available pesticides and tools found at your local hardware store, Dr. Higgins has detailed the method by which to control infestations in a safe, effective and efficient manner.  By creating a grid and placing slices of apple (during specific temperatures throughout the day), you can narrow in on the exact location of the nest(s), then treat the surrounding soil with permethrin, where the ants will succumb to its effects over a few days.  For complete instructions, please visit:

Invasive Species and Novel Ecosystems; an On-line Course at UVIC

Through the University of Victoria’s school of continuing studies, the Coastal ISC’s Rachelle McElroy will be teaching an on-line course that focuses on the impacts that invasive species have on our ecosystems.  Students will explore the biology of invasive species, examine their life history, and study dispersal strategies that have made them as prevalent in our ecosystems as they are.  Please visit for information on how to register. 

Thank you for your continued support!

Coastal ISC Staff and Partners in Action!

Do Not Mow Signs 

    Coastal ISC Booth

Engaging Key Stakeholders and Members at the 2015 Coastal ISC AGM