By Nikki Jamieson
A delegation from Rowland Seeds arrived at a Vauxhall council meeting Monday night to discuss beetles.
After a delegation in October 2016 voiced concerns about an increase of flour beetles in the community, Vauxhall council had written a letter to Rowland Seeds relaying those concerns. According to the agenda of council’s Nov. 7, 2016 meeting, Rowland Seeds had written back to the town, however, the letter was not included in the agenda package.
In response to these concerns about being a potential source of an infestation Rowland Seeds had launched an investigation.
The delegation came to share the results of their investigation into the matter during council’s regular Feb. 6 meeting.
The Rowland Seed’s Vauxhall facility in question is a cleaning dehulling plant which is also used to make organic feed pellets. There is also three large sheds where they store screenings.
“At the feed mill here in Vauxhall, we don’t actually make flour,” said Keith Jones, general manager and CFO at Rowland Seeds.
“All we have is course grains and screenings. We use a boiler system that actual heats the screening to make sure it sterilizes at the weed seeds that might be in it, because when you grow organic, then you’re going to have a few weeds, and the boiler makes sure there is no germination from anything that comes out of those pellets, and they make a really great animal fed.”
Interviews were conducted with “a number’ of residents in the area. Additionally, an ag-fieldman took a sample, and confirmed with Alberta Ag that the bug was a red-flour beetle.
“In the interview that we conducted with our neighbours, they didn’t report any infestation of beetles or even seeing any beetles, either red or the confused flour beetle,” said Jones.
Two independent consultants were engaged to come in, examine the facility and make recommendations on how to enhance their pest control, in case their current measures weren’t enough.
The facilities’ main form of pest control, in addition to cleaning, is a product called diatomaceous earth, which is certified for organic facilities. The product is composed of a fine powder of a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock or shells that is spread around the facility.
The powder is sharp, so any bugs that crawl over it will get cut up, the product dries hem out and they die.
“The first consultant found no beetles at all, and we were a little bit surprised, because we were expecting there would be some there,” said Jones.
“We engaged a second professional consultant, and that consultant found two dead confused flower beetles. Not the red flour beetles, which is what the ag-fieldman saw.”
“Through the whole investigation we did, there was no evidence of a significant beetle infestation. There was no evidence that our facility is the source of the infestation anywhere else around Vauxhall.”
Rowland seeds will continue their regular weekly, monthly and quarterly “house keeping” and continue using diatomaceous earth as a method of pest control.
Jones stressed they wanted to be good neighbours in the community, citing their cooperation with the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP during vandalism investigations and the role their security systems play into it, being “strong sponsors” of the Vauxhall Regional Fire Department, and how they’re working on an emergency management plan for each of their facilities. He also extended an invitation to council to tour the local facility.
“We were really, really concerned to hear about the allegations put forth by the previous delegation to you. We wanted to take it seriously,” said Jones. “In the future, if there are concerns that come forward, or if any of you are interested in having a tour or like to know a little bit more about what we’re doing, just, by all means, give us a call.”
“It’s always good for council to know what’s going on in the community and to understand the businesses,” said Maragret Plumtree, Vauxhall mayor. “Most of us I imagine would love to come and see it, it’s just a matter of getting it booked.”
Counc. Martin Kondor posed a question as to how bad the flour beetles would have to be — if they really were the source of an infestation — in order for them to have to migrate towards town.
“You got an ample supply there right? So, if there was beetles, it would be out of control there for them to come into town,” said Kondor. “In order for them to migrate into town, in my opinion, it would have to be like, a disaster, in order to leave that food supply, to go find more.”
“Why would they leave?” said Jones. “And the curious thing for us was, the species that was found (in town) was the flour beetle that actually likes living in flour — the red flour beetle — not the confused flour beetle, that tends to stick around where there’s whole grains or partial grains or damaged grains, not actually flour.”
After council had looked over another item on the agenda, Plumtree told council she was serious about taking Jones up on his offer, noting “if he’s offering”, and that she had wanted to ask if it was possible, but wasn’t sure because it was a ag-business. She also wanted to bring up tours with the Joint Economic Committee,
as she felt other members would be interested.