HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn recently announced Pennsylvania will begin aerial spraying of forestlands to combat gypsy moth populations poised for spring outbreaks in the northeastern and central portions of the commonwealth.
“As the insects emerge and begin feeding, the suppression effort will begin in southernmost targeted areas and progress northward,” Dunn said. “Spraying in eight counties is needed to ensure the health of our valuable hardwoods when threatened with heavy defoliation.”
A total of eight counties will be sprayed this spring in a suppression program covering 20,310 acres in Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton, Schuylkill, Snyder, and Union counties.
The gypsy moth suppression program is conducted by the Bureau of Forestry on a request basis, with the goal of preventing defoliation so that trees do not become stressed and succumb to disease and other pests. Most land being sprayed this year is state forestland. Private residential lands will be sprayed in Lehigh, Lackawanna, and Northampton counties, as they opted to participate in the cost-sharing program in 2018.
Aerial spraying by helicopter and fixed-wing airplanes will be on state-managed forests and parklands, as well as residential county lands in three participating counties. Though weather dependent, spraying is expected to be completed by the end of May or early June. Spraying progress and maps of the treatment areas will be posted on the DCNR website.
Targeted sites are determined by surveys of egg masses and other indicators across the state indicating gypsy moth populations are increasing and have the potential to cause major defoliation.
Bureau of Forestry experts note the state’s oak stands are especially vulnerable to gypsy moth infestation, often resulting in tree mortality. The loss of habitat, timber, and tree growth are considerable when gypsy moth populations go untreated. Biological in nature, the applied insecticide must be ingested by young caterpillars as they feed on emerging foliage.
Forestry bureau experts identify the gypsy moth as one of the most destructive forest pests in Pennsylvania.
Feeding while in the larval — or caterpillar — stage, the insect usually hatches and begins feeding from mid- to late April in southern Pennsylvania, and in early to mid-May in the northern part of the state. Oak, apple, sweet gum, basswood, birch, aspen, and willow trees are affected the most by the gypsy moth.
Older larvae also will feed on hemlock, pines, spruces, northern white cedar, and other conifers. A tree begins to significantly suffer when 30 percent or more of its leaf surface is lost.
Begun in 1972, forest insect spray program is a cooperative effort among DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, county governments, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Unit.
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.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
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