The Greatest War of All

One of the most bitter, swift-moving campaigns in the history of the world is being waged by the Canadian government against an enemy that threatenS to lay the entire country s tark and bare, under its terrible attacks.

NORMAN REILLY RAINE September 1 1925

The Greatest War of All

One of the most bitter, swift-moving campaigns in the history of the world is being waged by the Canadian government against an enemy that threatenS to lay the entire country s tark and bare, under its terrible attacks.

NORMAN REILLY RAINE September 1 1925

The Greatest War of All

One of the most bitter, swift-moving campaigns in the history of the world is being waged by the Canadian government against an enemy that threatenS to lay the entire country s tark and bare, under its terrible attacks.


ALL the world knows of Canada’s bitter sacrifice and splendid accomplishments in the last great war-of her tremendous out-pouring of blood and treasure from late 1914 until that pregnant November day four years later-yet even Canadians know but little of a far greater war which their government is waging today. It is a war against a power more colossal, more implacable that Germany ever dreamed of being; a war that has been raging for years past and will flame for years to come. One phase of it alone has cost the country seven billions of dollars. It is a war in which trenches, airplanes and poison gas are instruments of terrible destruction, and the enemy dead are numbered in their tens of billions.

Neither asking quarter nor granting it, the invaders fight with relentless, appalling ferocity. Sweeping over hundreds of square miles they lay the country stark and bare. Their spies penetrate into Canadian homes, and plant the seeds of pestilence and death. Livestock, drooping under the burning summer sun, are subjected to swift attack and die in the fields. Remorseless, fiercely rapacious. utterly without fear, these grim and frightful enemies attack incessantly in their countless hordes. Unperceived, their patrols infiltrate the defence and establish strong points which, reinforced from within, form a juraping-off place for a major attack. Then, before the government forces can bring up their supports, another tract of country is devastated or a mighty forest felled, and the enemy advance is arrested only after arduous and costly fighting.

Among the invaders are numberless air squadrons, endless sapper and tunnelling companies, pressing indefatigably forward in daylight and dark, undeterred by obstacles, undismayed by defeat. Through the long winters they dig themselves in and recruit strength for the great spring and summer offensives. Numerically this terrible army of destroyers is greater than all other living things, but the total Canadian government force arrayed against them is less than sixty men. The progeny of one enemy species alone, if they survived for 300 days would, it is estimated, equal in weight the population of China seven fold, yet each individual specimen could park quite comfortably upon a baby’s finger nail.

The Leader in the Fight

THE chief of the government forces in this great struggle is Arthur Gibson, Dominion Entomologist, with headquarters in Ottawa, and to say that he and his assistants are engaged in a colossal war is more than a figure of speech—it Í3 grim, undeniable fact. True, the enemy are insects of many hundred species, but they have to be fought by methods closely paralleling those employed against human adversaries.

It is estimated that insect pests ravage Canadian agriculture to the extent of twenty-five per cent, of all crops grown. The annual loss in Canada from this cause is well over one hundred million dollars. That is in field crops alone. If insect depredation against forest and shade trees, stored wheat and other stored products, live stock and house plants be added, and also the cost to the community in ill hlalth of man and beast due to mosquitoes, house flies and those which attack stock, the aggregate would total a loss to each man, woman and child in the Dominion of thirty dollars a year. Pettifogging methods in a situation so serious as this will not do, and the government has tackled the job of control and possible extermination in a wholesale and efficient way.

The work is divided into sections, each in charge of a specialist, much as the headquarters work and responsibility of the old Canadian fighting corps was organized. Comparisons, too, may be drawn in many phases of this “peace time” warfare, for the government, through the Entomological Branch, maintains scouts who figure the

probable line of enemy advance, report hostile patrols, and bring up a force to intercept and check them. Prisoners are taken and kept, so that by observation of their habits and life, knowledge may be gained of the best ways of combatting the main body. Whole districts are brought under control, and until the pests in a particular locality are stamped out no produce upon which they

prey is allowed to be shipped out. Trenches, miles in length, are dug to trap the terribly destructive army worm. Airplanes will be used to spray, with poison dust, the foliage of forest areas infected with the spruce budworm, which has destroyed such tremendous areas of balsam and spruce in eastern Canada. Poison gas has been experimented with against insect raiders such as the western species of grasshoppers.

Beating the Field and Garden Pests

THE work of carrying on hostilities under Mr. Gibson is divided into sharply defined departments. There is the Division of Field Crop and Garden Insects, in charge of H. G. Crawford, which is responsible for the investigation and control of insects attacking field and garden crops throughout the Dominion. The importance of this work readily may be seen when one considers that the division, in co-operation with the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, counterattacked against a plague of grasshoppers which invaded these provinces in the period 1919-1923, and, through the spreading of 71,000 tons of poisoned bait at a cost to the provinces of $1,700,000, saved crops amounting to approximately $77,000,000. The services of the division were extended last year to British Columbia, where an outbreak of grasshoppers occurred, in the Oliver and Osoyoos sections, throughout the KamloopsNicola country, the Okanagan Valley and in the Bulkley and Lake districts. The districts were organized, poison assembled and mixed with bait at strategic points, and its distribution supervised by men of the federal entomological staff in co-operation with local and provincial authorities. By this prompt action a large saving in crops was effected.

Constant watch is kept on the prairies for the coming of the dreaded grasshopper. Those who have seen a tract of country stripped bare and desolate by this terrible pest will not forget it. Scouts of the Field Crop Division watch the movement of the insects on the border states with neverslacking vigilance, and at the first sign of danger

the farmers are notified, and forces mustered for the defence. In between these activities minor operations are carried out, such as investigating the severe losses caused in certain years in the wheat fields of Manitoba, due to grasshoppers and crickets cutting the binder twine, and the development of simple and effective treatment.

The extent to which businessmen sympathize and are interested in the problems of their agrarian brothers is indicated by a happening in Lethbridge, three years ago. During the height of an important grasshopper outbreak Mr. H. L. Seamans, in charge of the Federal laboratory at that place addressed the Rotarians, and explained the danger to the whole community of this terrifically destructive pest. As a result the Rotarians of the district were organized and took an active part in the campaign to destroy the insect within the city limits, and thereby helped to prevent the further spread of the menace. Representatives of the Entomological Branch frequently address organizations such as the Rotarians and Kiwanis Clubs, on the work of prevention, and always the response, and assistance, where needed, has been immediate and whole-hearted.

One of the most dangerous and destructive insect pests the department has to combat is the European corn borer which, in recent years, made its appearance in certain counties in Ontario, and caused ruin to large areas of crops. As soon as its presence was discovered agents of the Entomological Branch took immediate steps. The first infested area was put under strict control for four square miles. It was forbidden to farmers to remove corn from this district. Banners were strung over roads and highways warning motorists against it. Men were stationed on the roads to see that these regulations—which were backed by law—were complied with. These men had authority to search vehicles and

prevent the breaking of the control. In addition to the area under close control an additional one hundred square miles round about was put under quarantine. Every (farmer in the area was visited, and asked to co-operate, in order to prevent its spread. In the meantime active measures were undertaken for the total destruction of the invaders in the region already infested.

Many of the farmers willingly assisted in the work, but with many apathy and a non-realization of the capacity of the insect for extreme and continuous damage worked against full co-operation. Where controls were put into practice under government advice and encouragement the borers were almost eliminated the first year. Losses were greatly reduced in later years, but the spirit of the farmers who had helped was spoiled by the fact that moths flew in despite their care, from the affected crops of non-co-operating growers. The result was that the -controlled area in some cases was re-affected, making necessary a duplication and extension of the work. Where the instructions of the government experts are carried out, however, success is bound to follow. During the fall and winter of 1924 the Province of Ontario, alarmed by the spread of the borer into fourteen new townships in Ontario, and its increase in some counties from one hundred to four thousand per cent., took energetic methods to combat it. The federal experts assisted in an -educational campaignby supplying speakers for morethan fifty meetings, distributing colored posters and a colored life-history chart and special circulars explaining how to meet the Dest, the printed matter being widely distributed throughout the stricken area.

The situation with regard to the corn borer in Kent ■County,Ontario,at present is this: that, with one hundred per cent, co-operation from the farmers and people of the district there is a fighting chance that the pest will be checked and held. Failing that co-operation, it is quite probable there will be no corn in that district three years from now. It is just that serious.

It seems human nature to lessen the achievements of one’s home folk, and while Canadians may not realize -the tremendous work that is being accomplished in fighting the corn borer by their government that fact is not lost upon our neighbors to the south. Entomological experts from Ohio, New York state, Michigan, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have made frequent visits to Canada to study and apply to their own communities the methods of attack carried out by the Dominion government, and those methods generally are acknowledged to be the most efficient in operation anywhere.

To detail the full list of insects against which the Division of Field Crops wages its incessant battle would require many columns. To fight them requires patience, persistence, unceasing vigilance and a wide and expert knowledge and constant study of their habits and methods of attack; but the work of the division is meeting with ever increasing success.

A Formidable Enemy

WITH grasshoppers laying waste broad areas of prairie, the corn borer attacking in the fields of Ontario, and countless other field and garden pests taking heavy toll of other crops over the breadth of the Dominion, an insect, equally terrible in its passage of death among 'growing things, was marching in its billions -through the forests of the country. In Quebec, in British Columbia, in northern Ontario, the formidable spruce budworm attacked and conquered wide growths of ■standing timber, while in the province of New Brunswick the loss of balsam in trees dead or past recovery at one time was estimated to be ninety per cent, of the stand. As a large part of the New Brunswick forests is predominantly balsam, this loss was a calamity to the pro-

vincial pulpwood industry locally.

The alarm also was sent in to General Headquarters by patrols on the North Ontario front, and trained intelligence officers, one of whom was Dr. J. M. Swaine, chief of the Division of Forest Insects, in co-operation with the Air Board, made flights over the enemy area, accompanied by foresters attached to the Commission of Forest Conservation. Dr.

Swaine said later:

“We were able to obtain valuable information upon the area of the infestation, and also to locate blocks of spruce and balsam which could be expected to suffer attack next season.

Our flights covered the area west and north of Lake Temiskaming where the outbreak was spreading, and also west and northeast of the lakes, where infestation had been acute for two years. From a height of 3,500 feet it was possible to determine the different types of timber and to locate the blocks of spruce and balsam accurately. The information

we received from a few days flying would have taken two men more than six months to acquire by ground surveys.”

Another forest terror is the pine bark beetle, which killed great numbers of yellow pines in British Columbia.

ControFwork against this pest was swift and sure. Approximately 50,000 beetle-infested trees were felled and burned at a cost of $150,000, but the campaign resulted in the saving of more than five million dollars’ worth of splendid timber, and in addition preserved important watersheds from invasion and consequent serious damage.

There is a destructive spruce bark beetle which kills quantities of the finest and largest spruce both in the east and west, but a bulletin issued by the department detailing methods of control has been responsible for heavy casualties among this species. At present scouts are busy on Vancouver Island, studying the most effective means of fighting the Douglas fir bark beetle, which is threatening a heavy loss in that area, while others are engaged against the western cedar borer, a terribly destructive pest and one most difficult to detect. The grubs of the cedar borer excavate long tunnels in the heart wood of living cedar, giving little evidence of injuryontbe surface, so that often the trouble is not discovered until the logs are sawn.

Occasionally the department meets with an enemy who baffles all defen-

sive methods and continues its assaults absolutely impervious to counter attack. Such is the larch sawfly which was found to be increasing in numbers in 1924 and carrying disease and death to the young crop of tamarack approaching commercial size. The invaded territory extends westward, north of the prairies into British Columbia, and all the tamarack in that country is threatened with destruction. The chief hope of control by the government lies in the development of parasites of a type that will kill the raiders without themselves becoming a menace to the trees.

Laison and Intelligence

HP HE methods of the government in fighting so many varieties of pests differ largely. With some, poisoned bait is effective. For others tremendous casualties are effected through the use of sprays or poison dust. The march of the formidable army worm which, during its last outbreak in Ontario appeared in hundreds of millions and threatened vast acreages of crops with destruction, was arrested by the trench system of control. Great quantities of the pest were killed, and the saving in money ran into a large sum. These and many others are measures taken after the márauders have gained a foothold; there is a branch of the government work, the Division of Foreign Pests Suppression, under L. S. McLaine, however, which aims to check-mate the enemy before they arrive.

In this great war against insects Mr. McLaine might well be called Chief of Intelligence and Provost-Marshal combined, for to him and his men falls the work of detecting the arrival of insect pests in nurserystock and produce, bulbs, etc., from foreign lands, the superintendence of scouts in the field who watch the movements of pests in the United States and estimate their probable points of contact with Canadian territory, the enforcement of legislation controlling the importation of plants into Canada and the prohibition of certain species from areas abroad known to be affected, the combating and prevention of spread of newly imported dangerous insects, the maintenance of domestic and foreign quarantines, the watching of territory and tabulation of data having to do with the activities of new pests, and the inspection of plants and plant produce for export.

In this connection ship's manifests are examined, permits to import and export are passed upon, and the movement of crops and produce in infected areas carefully checked. The men of this division examine all plants imported before they are given clearance and in this way a tremendous preventive work is accomplished. During the period, September, 1923, to March, 1924, inclusive, the inspectors of this Division examined over ten million plants from Great Britain, France, Holland, Germany, United States, China, Japan, Bermuda, New Zealand, Hawaii, Italy and South America, and in so doing found 105 shipments infested with dangerous insect pests, including beetles, scales, caterpillars and mites.

In certain parts of Canada and in Europe Christmas trees are found to be hosts for various kinds of predatory insects. A quarantine has been established, and it is possible to move trees from these areas only after most rigorous examination. As an example of the preventive work of the Division at home the fight against the gipsy moth may be cited. This moth was committing serious depredations against the forests of Vermont, so government scouts combed the woods of southern Quebec to discover if they had made an appearance there. In cooperation with the Department of Lands and Forests of Quebec thirty-six scouts worked from early July until December, the territory covered extending from Beauharnois County on the west to the New Hampshire line

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on the east, and from the International Boundary to thirty miles north. In July a single infertile egg cluster was found at Beebe, and in September a serious infestation was discovered at Henrysburg. Intensive measures immediately were taken to prevent their spread.

A large area was sprayed, trees were banded and brush burned, and present prospects are that the further penetration of this most destructive insect will be greatly curtailed if not prevented altogether. _ Had it not been for the intelligence given and so promptly acted upon, the damage, when finally it made itself manifest through normal channels, would have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Division of Foreign Pests Suppression now maintains an inspection service at Halifax, N.S., St. John, N.B., Quebec, P.Q., Montreal, P.Q., Niagara Falls, Ont., Toronto, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Ottawa, Ont., Winnipeg, Man., and Vancouver, B.C.,

Dog Eat Dog

THE reader might well ask what connection creatures bearing the awesome names of Habrobracon brevicornis, Exoristes roborator, and Entomophthora sphaerosperma could possibly have with the war which the French and Spanish are waging against the Riffs in North Africa at the present time, and what connection either might have with an article on insect pests. There is no connection at all, but a very strong parallel. To aid in the fight against Abd-el-Krim, the desert chieftain, the white races have enlisted the aid (sometimes compulsory) of other wild, fighting tribes who, for generations, have preyed upon their fellows for gain.

To assist them in their fight against destructive insect pests the officers of the Dominion Entomological Branch have bred, by millions, other insects whose natural prey are the species the scientists seek to destroy, and this phase is one of the most interesting in the work of the department. Many insects form “hosts” or natural feeding places for smaller predatory insects which, generally, are not injurious to crops, and the entomological branch is unceasing in its efforts to discover which type is fatal to crop despoilers. When a parasite is discovered, it is carefully bred—a process which sometimes runs into years of time—and when sufficient of the destroyers have been produced they are liberated in the infected area. Immediately they are turned loose they swarm out in search of their prey, which they attack with a ferocity almost unbelievable, and soon succeed in sweeping the area clean, when the parasites, having exhausted their food supply and rescued the beleagured district, themselves disappear.

One of the most destructive pests in fruit growing districts is the San Jose scale. It attacks all kinds of orchard trees except sour cherries, and may also attach itself to rose, lilac, sumach, Japanese walnut, European and American elms, hawthorn and mountain ash, and has been found in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. On a badly infested tree the bark may be entirely encrusted with scales which resemble minute barnacles such as one sees clinging to tide-water rocks when the tide is out. The scale attaches itself to the bark and drains the life of the tree by sucking the sap with its piercing mouthpart. The full-grown female San Jose scale is a yellow pear-shaped insect covered with a flat, greyish circular scale about the size of a pin head. _ When in the black, or immature stage, it passes the winter on the bark. In June the young are born. These, minute yellowish things, after wandering about the bark for a little, settle, insert their mouthpieces into the bark and protect themselves with a waxy material which forms the scale.

A Terrible Destroyer

THE natural enemy of the San Jose scale, found after long searching, is the ladybird beetle, a small, hard-shelled red or yellow creature with black markings

and six armor-cased legs which wanders over the scale-infested bark and, pouncing upon its victim devours it. The ladybird beetle is the relentless foe of the scale, even in its larval stage, when it presents a more fearsome appearance than when fully developed. The larva looks much like a diminutive and exceedingly vicious alligator, but with a hard, round head, and its fierceness in attack seconds its appearance. Experiments have shown that one such beetle may kill and eat one hundred aphids or scales daily.

A useful parasite which is being employed in increasing numbers is one with the highbrow name of Exoristes roborator. This insect, small and fly-like, is the deadly enemy of the European corn borer, and when quantities of them are turned loose in an area infested with the borer they get right down to business. When the Exoristes roborator comes upon a borer, which it unerringly detects through the corn stalk, it plunges a lancelike stinger through the stalk and into the borer’s body, depositing therein its own eggs which, when hatched, eat out the vitals of its unfortunate host.

The beauty of these and scores of other parasites used to combat dangerous insect pests is that they are harmless to crops, and that when they have finished their job of killing the crop destroyers they disappear, but the present difficulty is in breeding them in numbers sufficient to allow of effective liberation over large areas.

Parasite and forest insect laboratories and places of observation have been established at Chatham, Ont., and Aylmer, Que., and at other points, where the habits of pests and parasites are under constant study by trained scientists, who observe and note the life histories of thousands of insects. Nothing is too small to escape their attention, from the embryo to the adult stage.

It is fortunate for man that control of insect pests does not depend altogether upon his artificial methods, for, were it not for natural checks upon insect life, such as insectivorous birds, toads, frogs, natural parasites, fungous and bacterial disease and unfavorable weather conditions, the offspring of a single species might lay waste the whole earth. All of these factors keep insect life under normal control, and the Ottawa scientists say that their work, at its best, can but be supplementary to the wisdom of nature.

Disease as an Ally

XTOTHING seems to escape the atten-

^ tion and experimentation of our Dominion entomologists, however, and they enlist in their great fight every circumstance adverse to the enemy. Besides insecticides and gases, parasites and artificial methods, they utilize that greatest of all destroyers of life—disease. Some time ago, during a serious attack by the apple sucker on the orchards of Nova Scotia, it was noticed that the invader was stricken with a strange disease caused by a fungous parasite, Entomophthora sphoerosperma, which quickly put an end to the sucker’s destructiveness, but without harming the trees. The fungus, it was found, readily lent itself to artificial dissemination, so that in cases where the disease is not present during the apple sucker’s attack the government forces have in reserve a powerful ally which can be rushed to any threatened position with almost absolute certainty of victory.

The use of insecticides is so widespread in combating the spread of insect pests, and the quantities consumed are so great that one branch of the government service is employed exclusively in experimenting with a view to producing the cheapest, most effective mixtures. The distribution of poisoned bait, sprays and like material annually runs into thousands of tons, and where large areas have to be treated by farmers and people of limited means it is essential that the materials be cheap as well as competent to perform the work. Constant improvement along these lines is being shown, and through

an expansive campaign of education the use of insecticides is increasing yearly.

Scientists in Action

IT IS not alone against the insect enemies of plants, trees and crops that the government is fighting. Methods for the eradication of bedbugs have been developed; the campaign against the housefly as a carrier of loathsome disease and death is well established, and has the cooperation of the majority of our citizens, and has been instrumental in raising the standard of sanitation in many communities across the Dominion; entomologists, hot upon the trail of dangerous animal pests, spent days in green, stinking swamps that steamed with fever, in efforts to learn the breeding habits and dispersal methods of blood-sucking díptera, such as mosquitos and black flies. Bot flies and warbles, which attack horses and cattle sometimes with fatal results, were followed to their breeding grounds and, awaiting a favorable season, the embryos were destroyed. Grain elevators, the holds of empty grain boats, the lower holds of deep-water graincarrying ships, the bins of distilleries, all were tactical positions in the experts’ attacks against insects affecting stored grain and other products. A mosquito laboratory was established at Banff, Alta., resulting in the almost total eradication of these dangerous pests; a string of experimental stations was strung, like a line of block-houses across the continent, each actively engaged in fighting the enemy in all its phases, in the district which it serves; lectures were broadcast by radio, dealing with the work of the Department; lecturers toured the country educating the people in the importance of suppressing pests, and officers of the department contributed numerous articles to the rural and agricultural press, in efforts to arouse the public mind to a realization of danger in certain specified districts. Some of these activities were regarded as but minor tactics, although all were of account in the aggregate and the general plan.

Even the smaller animals which prey upon crops have incurred the hostile regard of the government forces, and in Saskatchewan in 1920 experiments were made with chlorine gas against gophers in a badly infested district. The gas was liberated into the holes and heavy casualties resulted.

The Unselfishness of Science

YEAR after year the great fight goes on. It is waged by men who toil for more than money. Science and idealism seem inseparable, and work hand in hand for the good of mankind. To the entomologists of the Dominion a beetle is more than a beetle. It is an absorbing living creature, with individual habits, loves, hates, romances, and so many times a tragic end. Comedy and drama in miniature, and a tremendous influence for good or evil upon the welfare of the human race are wrapped up in those tiny lives, and the great war game in which men pit modern scientific discoveries on a Brobdignagian scale against mites with the aggregate power of monsters carries all the elements of the uncertainty that attends strife between man and man. Men who work for material gains alone are not of the type of these. It is not unusual for a member of the Entomological Branch suddenly to interrupt a peaceful street car journey through the streets of Ottawa by a mad dash through the door in pursuit of a fluttering butterfly or dancing moth, quick with hope of a capture that will add to his knowledge of insect marauders, or lend itself to the destruction of others, and so further the cause. Such profound interest in one’s profession argues the idealist who, linking scientific accuracy with action, will go to any trouble, at any cost, thoughtless alike of praise or reward, to attain his end—victory over the greatest menace that the agrarian life of the Dominion has to face.