The province says it's applied for a permit to aerial-spray 186 hectares of land in Saanich to eradicate a growing population of gypsy moths.

The forests ministry says if the area around Elk Lake is left untreated, the moth could spread to new areas of the province via vehicles, containers, rail and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal.

The ministry has proposed up to four aerial applications of a pesticide it says is approved for use on organic farms between next April 15th and June 30th.

It says large gypsy moth populations have defoliated sections of forests and residential areas in Ontario and the eastern U.S. in recent years and the spraying is aimed at minimizing the risks posed to B.C. forests, farms and orchards.