GYPSY MOTHS: 63K acres in St. Louis County to be treated - KMSP-TV

GYPSY MOTHS: 63K acres in St. Louis County to be treated for pests

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Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Gypsy moth pupae | Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Gypsy moth pupae | Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Gypsy moth caterpillar | Photo credit: USFWS/James Appleby Gypsy moth caterpillar | Photo credit: USFWS/James Appleby

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is preparing to treat approximately 63,000 acres of land in St. Louis County to slow the spread of the gypsy moth invasion observed last summer.

MDA officials plan to target areas near the following landmarks:

- Eagles Nest lakes
- Lake Jeanette
- Lester River
- Whiteface Reservoir

The aerial treatments will begin on Wednesday and could continue through Saturday, depending on weather conditions.

WHAT DOES TREATMENT ENTAIL?

In order to be effective, the treatments must begin in the early morning hours. Residents may wake to the sound of a low-flying airplane, and officials warn that the noise could spook outdoor pets.

The product used for treatment has no known health effect for humans, but residents may want to stay indoors during treatment. MDA officials say the residue will not damage finish on vehicles, and it can be removed with soapy water; however, residents may prefer to park cars indoors to eliminate the need to wash them.

For more information on treatment details and times, a hotline has been set up at 1-888-545-MOTH.

WHY TREAT NOW?

According to MDA, treatment is most effective in areas where the moth populations are still low. Surveys conducted in 2012 found the areas listed above have significant enough populations to be of concern, but officials say the numbers are still low enough for treatment to be an effective response.

The treatment works by disrupting the mating cycle for the moths by releasing small flakes coated with a pheromone to confuse male gypsy moths and make it more difficult for them to find a mate. This should result in a smaller hatch next year.

The tactic has been used successfully in other states, and MDA says treatments can reduce the gypsy moth population by more than two thirds as long as it is applied as the adult males begin to emerge mid-summer.

WHAT ARE GYPSY MOTHS?

Gypsy moths are one of the most destructive tree pests in America, and they are responsible for millions of dollars in forest damage on the east coast.

The moths are commonly found in Wisconsin and are beginning to threaten portions of Minnesota. In large numbers, the caterpillars can remove leaves from large sections of forests. The pests' preferred hosts include oak, poplar, birch and willow trees.

The moths can be unintentionally spread when people transport firewood or other items with moth eggs on them.

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