Bas de Coster (42) was sound asleep at home in Son en Breugel on Sunday night.
But around 01:00, he was woken up by a passing tractor that was being used to combat oak processionary caterpillars. “I thought, what’s this? You’re not going to do this at night, are you?”
“I heard humming noises which woke me up. I thought that a sweeper was driving through the street. Then I saw that tractor with a sprayer aimed at the trees,” Bas says, still incredulous. He says he went back to bed, and ten minutes later, the pest-control truck came by again.
‘Sounded like a generator’
Adrie Neervoort, who lives in the Gentiaan neighbourhood, also heard the tractor. He went to investigate. “The noise kept my daughter awake. It sounded like a generator.”
After 15 minutes of the noise, he went to check it out. He walked to a street behind his house. “I saw orange flashing lights in the distance.”
“The sound seemed to come from there. I thought it might be emergency cleanup.” But as Adrie got closer, he saw the tractor spraying poison high into the oak trees.
‘Couldn’t believe it’
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Adrie says. He wanted to ask the driver why the work was being done at this time. “As I ran up to the cab, the vehicle turned onto another street. It drove off quickly. His job was done, but I was wide awake”.
The Son and Breugel municipality told Studio040 that the pesticide being used is more effective at night. That’s when the oak trees’ leaves best absorb Xentari. “That quickly kills the young oak processionary caterpillars,” Bram van ‘t Hof, council green space coordinator, says.
“The leaves don’t absorb any moisture during the day.” According to him, it also mustn’t rain for 24 hours afterwards. Otherwise, the poison runs off the trees, rendering it less effective.
‘Less chance of exposure’
“Also, the fumigation is being done at night when most residents are home. So, they aren’t exposed to the poison,” says Bram. “We put an announcement in [the local community newspaper].”
“We said we’d be controlling the oak processionary caterpillars in the second week of May. But we didn’t think of communicating the time,” he admits.
Xentari is controversial. Ultimately, the municipality wants to get rid of the substance too. Adrie Neervoort isn’t reassured.
He e-mailed councillor Jan Boersma. “There are many oak trees on my street and also bird boxes. If these birds are exposed to this poison, what will become of their eggs?” he asked.
The Gentian residents will have their night’s rest disturbed in about a week again. That’s the second and last round of the night-time pest control is due to be done.
Editor: Melinda Walraven