HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) secretary said the state of aerial spraying will begin to combat gypsy moth populations poised for spring outbreaks.
“As the insects emerge and begin feeding, the suppression effort will begin in early May,” Cindy Adams Dunn said in a press release. “Our recent cool, wet springs had emerged as an enemy of the gypsy moth in years past, but populations have climbed in some areas to a point where aerial spraying is needed to keep this invasive pest in check and protect the trees from defoliation.”
Local state parks being sprayed include Black Moshannon, Centre County; Blue Knob, Bedford County; and Prince Gallitzin, Cambria County. These sites are determined by surveys of egg masses and other indicators indicating gypsy moth populations are increasing and have the potential to cause major defoliation.
DCNR Forest Health Manager Dr. Donald Eggen said gypsy moths go through cycles where outbreaks occur every five to 10 years.
“Populations had declined in years past thanks to the gypsy moth fungus disease and wet spring weather,” he said, “but that no longer is the case for 2021.”
The gypsy moth suppression program is conducted with the goal of preventing defoliation so that trees do not become stressed and succumb to disease, other insect pests, or drought, the press release said.
Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft will conduct the spraying the insecticide, which must be ingested by young caterpillars as they feed on emerging foliage.
The loss of habitat, timber, and tree growth are considerable when gypsy moth populations go untreated. A tree begins to significantly suffer when 30 percent or more of its leaf surface is lost.
The press release said the gypsy moth was introduced to North America in 1869 at Medford, Mass., where it was used in a failed silk-production experiment. The gypsy moth first reached Pennsylvania in Luzerne County in 1932 and since then has infested every county.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather and community events that matter to you.