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Helikites in the Battle Against Budworm
Press Release: 25 July 2018

CBC Canada: Researchers launching Helikite into cloud of 'trillions' of spruce budworm


Researchers hoping to learn more about the spruce budworm are heading into the heart of the swarm to get answers that could help prevent future outbreaks.

A project led by Natural Resources Canada has developed a Helikite equipped with a net to rise between 400 and 600 metres into the air to collect samples from a cloud made of "trillions" of migrating spruce budworm, said lead researcher Yan Boulanger.


The samples can offer important information, such as who is migrating.

"If we know that there are females still carrying eggs with them, that can have a lot [effect] on the propagation of the outbreak itself," Boulanger told Shift New Brunswick.

Researchers are using the Helikite — “a balloon mixed with a kite" — for the first time to learn more about the insect's dispersal patterns, one of the few areas that scientists are still unsure about.

With more insight into the migration habits, the risk can be mitigated.

Quebec outbreak

The dreaded insect has a history of devastating forests by defoliating and killing trees as well as creating significant growth problems in softwood forests. An ongoing outbreak in Quebec has affected about seven million hectares.

The Helikite is set to be launched on Wednesday near Rimouski.

Boulanger said the budworm has been spotted in parts of New Brunswick — something that might make residents of Restigouche County shudder as they're reminded of the 2016 infestation.

The forestry industry would also be on guard, he said, as jobs and valuable product could be at risk.

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