Good news on gypsy moth front in Washington

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Gypsy months are a pest to be taken seriously. If established the little critters can eat their way through whole forests. And if established, gypsy moths can impact trade for fruit and tree producers. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is reporting it has caught 25 moths during its spring trapping, which is down from 42 in 2015.

Those sound like small numbers but those catches help track potential infestations of these costly bugs. Beginning in June, WSDA place more than 30,000 orange triangle-shaped traps on trees throughout the state to monitor for the bugs. Traps use a pheromone to attract male moths. The department caught moths from July 21 through Sept. 8.

Counties where moths were trapped (and the number) include Clark (1), Cowlitz (1), King (7), Kitsap (8), Kittitas (1), Mason (1), Pierce (4), Spokane (1), and Thurston (1).

TRAPPED TO COUNT: Using pheromone laced traps, Washington State Department of Agriculture staffers can track potential infestations of the gypsy moth.
TRAPPED TO COUNT: Using pheromone laced traps, Washington State Department of Agriculture staffers can track potential infestations of the gypsy moth.

In the spring of 2016, WSDA conducted its second largest gypsy moth eradication effort in its history. The work included treating more than 10,000 acres including areas of Seattle and Tacoma. Using a biological insecticide approved for organic farming and gardening, the program targeted both Asian gypsy moth and European Gypsy moth. Six of the sites were treated for the Asian variety, and one site in Seattle was treated for the European moth.

No moths caught this summer were from areas treated during the spring program. And no Asian gypsy moths were caught this year after last year’s record catch of 10 Asian gypsy moths.

Jim Marra, WSDA Pest Program Manager in charge of the gypsy moth program, notes: “While it is too early to declare the spring treatments a success, this year’s trapping results are very encouraging.” Two to three years of trapping after treatment are necessary before WSDA can determine whether treatment has been successful.

All this news comes after reports of the largest gypsy moth outbreak in the Eastern states since 1980, where defoliation from hundreds of thousands of acres of trees could be seen from space this summer. Adds Marra: “By supporting eradication treatments when necessary and allowing insect traps, our communities are helping ensure that kind of destruction never happens here.”

Next step is for the agency to conduct egg mass surveys to look for signs of reproducing populations of the moths in catch areas. Once completed, the catch and egg mass survey data will informed WSDA’s decision about what, if any, gypsy moth treatments may be necessary in 2017.

Learn more about the program by visiting agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth.