More gypsy moth spraying planned

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staff, Gazette
Friday, March 1, 2013

— State officials will hold open houses this month to present plans for aerial spraying to stop gypsy moths.

Low-flying planes will spray about 163,000 acres in 24 counties, including two areas in Rock County, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection announced this week.

Gypsy moths threaten forests and urban trees and could harm the timber, paper, nursery and tourism industries, according to a news release.

The invasive pests have been spreading across the country from west to east.

Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliate thousands of acres of hardwood forests and urban trees throughout the northeastern United States, including Wisconsin, each year, according to the UW Extension.

Those who attend the meetings will be able to speak with the staff, learn more about gypsy moths and view maps of spray areas.

The closest open house is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Room 231 in the department's building at 2811 Agriculture Drive in Madison.

One area to be treated is just west of Orfordville. It comprises about 494 acres and will be sprayed with a biological insecticide known as Btk.

Btk is made from soil bacteria. It is a stomach poison to gypsy moths, but it isn't toxic to bees, birds, animals and people, said Nkauj Shoua Van of the state's Gypsy Moth Slow the Spread Program.

Btk makes gypsy moths stop eating, and they starve to death, Van said.

The Btk used is a variety acceptable for use in certified organic production, so it will not affect the certification of organic farmers, Van said.

Btk breaks down in sunlight in several days, so a second application is usually done to catch late-hatching caterpillars.

A second treatment area covering about 1,565 acres runs along the state line west of Beloit. This area will receive a different treatment, a pheromone designed to keep male gypsy moths from finding mates.

Male gypsy moths find mates by following the female's pheromone trail. A fake pheromone that will be scattered in the area is supposed to mislead the males.

The fake pheromone, known as MD, consists of tiny, green flakes about the size of grains of rice, Van said.

More information is available online at gypsymoth.wi.gov.

Last updated: 8:00 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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