Home Environment Athens Takes Action to Cut Down on Gypsy Moth Problem

Athens Takes Action to Cut Down on Gypsy Moth Problem

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Gypsy moth

As spring approaches, the Ohio Department of Agriculture is gearing up to administer aerial gypsy moth treatments to slow the spread of the destructive insect, and Athens and Hocking counties are among those slated to undergo the process. The treatments are not designed to kill the moths, but inhibit mating processes.

Gypsy moths are invasive insects that attack more than 300 different types of trees and shrubs, with oak being the preferred species, according to a release. In its caterpillar stage, the moth feeds heavily on the leaves of trees and shrubs, limiting their ability to photosynthesize. This process, according to Dave Adkins, the department’s gypsy moth program manager, can be extremely detrimental to the trees’ health, causing many to die over the course of only three years.

“[Defoliation] depletes the root reserves, and the second plume of leaves doesn’t quite do photosynthesis like the first,” Adkins said. He mentioned after one year of defoliation, 18 percent of the tree would not photosynthesize correctly, followed by 90 percent the next year and 100 percent the third year.

This process can also be sped up through the stress put on trees because of diseases they can pick up, as well as drought, Adkins said.

In advance of the spraying, department staff members have scheduled a number of open houses in treatment areas that will offer attendees the opportunity to speak directly with those who work with the program, learn about the pest and view maps of treatment areas, according to a news release by the agency.

The open house for Athens and Hocking counties was originally scheduled for Feb. 4; however, because of Monday’s inclement weather conditions, it has been rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 11, from 6-8 p.m. at the OSU Extension Office, located at 280 W. Union St. near the backside of the Health Department Building.

According to Dave Adkins, the department’s gypsy moth program manager, experts will address how the treatment process will affect those who live near a treatment area in the southeast and northwest Ohio regions, what a gypsy moth is and how much damage the insect does, as well as how the treatment is carried out. Additionally, citizens can also visit www.agri.ohio.gov/gypsymoth to learn more about gypsy moth and to view maps of the treatment areas.

There are two targeted areas for treatment in Athens and Nelsonville. According to Adkins, one of the areas in Athens County is a 571-acre plot of land located near the Rt. 50-33 split, near the south side of Athens. The second area, the Union Furnace section, amounts to 4,630 acres and is located two miles southwest of Nelsonville, hugging the Athens-Hocking county line.

In order to slow the spread of gypsy moths in these areas, Adkins said the department will use a mating disruption product, a replication of the pheromone male gypsy moths use to find females during mating season.

“It suppresses the population this way,” Adkins said. “It doesn’t kill the moth, it just disrupts the mating process.”

In Ohio, 51 counties are currently under gypsy moth quarantine, limiting the movement of regulated articles out of those counties. According to Adkins, the counties slated for an aerial treatment add up to roughly 95,000 acres of land, up from the reported 72,000 acres in 2012.

The State Dept. of Agriculture uses different types of treatment strategies to slow the spread of gypsy moth in Ohio, the release said. Adkins said there are three programs aimed to manage the pest, including:

• The “Slow-the-Spread” program, which occurs in counties in front of the larger, advancing gypsy moth population. In these counties (including Athens and Hocking counties), officials work to detect and control isolated populations in an effort to slow the overall advancing gypsy moth infestation.

• The “Suppression” program, which occurs in counties where the pest is already established. Landowner(s) must voluntarily request treatment to help suppress populations.

• The “Eradication” program, which occurs in un-infested areas where an isolated population occurs because of the import of infested firewood or outdoor equipment. Department officials use aggressive eradication efforts to eliminate gypsy moth from these areas.

According to the news release, treatments used for gypsy moth control include:

• Foray (Btk), a compound derived from a naturally occurring bacteria found in the soil that is effective in gypsy larvae control.

• Mating disruption product, flakes or liquid that disrupt the male moth’s ability to locate females during mating season.

• Dimilin, a growth-regulating insecticide that attacks gypsy moth larvae.

• Mimic, a growth-regulating insecticide that attacks gypsy moth larvae.

• Gypchek, a bio-insecticide specifically used for control of gypsy moth.

The release said the department uses different types of treatments, depending on the location and extent of infestation, and all treatments require an aerial application. Foray, Dimilin, Mimic and Gypchek treatments will take place in early to mid-May, and mating disruption treatments will begin in mid-June. The release also said treatments are not toxic to humans, pets, birds or fish.

After the Feb. 11 open house, there will not be another conducted in Athens; however, citizens living in the block to be treated will receive a letter about what the department is doing and will have the option for comment until March, according to Adkins. About a week before the treatment in mid-June, he said, citizens will receive a postcard reminder.

Citizens who cannot attend the open houses and would like to provide official comment about the proposed treatment blocks should send correspondence to the department by March 1, the release said. Letters can be sent by e-mail to [email protected] or by hard copy to the attention of the Gypsy Moth Program, Plant Health Division – Building 23, Ohio Department of Agriculture, 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068.

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