Ohio’s Department of Agriculture to treat Gypsy Moth

Gypsy moth (Photo: Ohio Department of Agriculture)

Gypsy moth. Image: Ohio Department of Agriculture

By Elizabeth Dagres
Great Lakes Echo

Parts of Ohio will be treated to slow the spread of the destructive gypsy moth early this spring, the state Department of Agriculture said.

Fifty-one Ohio counties are under gypsy moth quarantine due to attacks on more than 300 types of trees and shrubs, the department said in a recent press release,

A key question: How do gypsy moths affect Ohio’s forestry?

Gypsy moths originated in Europe. The exotic insects were first seen in the United States
in Boston in the 1800s, said Dan Herms, a professor in the department of entomology at Ohio
State University. Ohio started to see a problem in the 1990s.

“Gypsy moths defoliate trees,” said Herms. “They have an impact on Ohio’s forestry and also tourism with people who like to camp and hike. They also have an impact on our timber industry.”

Officials will decide which treatment program is best for each affected area, depending on the size of the gypsy moth population.

There are two approaches to suppress the population, Herms said.

“One approach is a mating distribution and another is to use BT,” or bacillus thuringienesis.

With the first approach, sex pheromones are sprayed into a low populated area of gypsy moths. The spray makes it harder for males to locate and mate with females. This method can be used only in a low-population area because males can easily see the females in a high-populated area. This method tricks their sense of smell.

BT is a bacterium used in high population areas to control gypsy moth caterpillars. It is safe for humans, birds, other insects and agriculture, Herms said.

Weather plays a significant role in the spread of the insect.

“In 2012 we had a severe drought,” said David Adkins, Ohio’s gypsy moth program manager. “Because there was no moisture in the air, the population of gypsy moths exploded.”

Adkins also said that when there is moisture in the air, gypsy moths are less likely to be a problem.

Last year the state spent  $1.7 million for the  “Slow the Spread” program to control the moths, said Brett Gates, the department’s public information officer. Most of the money came from the federal government. The state share was $149,000.

Gates said that he expects the program cost this year to be anywhere between $1.2 and $1.8 million.

Treatments will take place from Northwest Ohio to Southeast Ohio, starting in early- to mid- May and going until mid-June.

“Gypsy moths are slowly gradually moving throughout the state and are becoming more established in Eastern and Central Ohio,” said Gates.

“The treatment process depends on the life cycle of the moths,” he said. “The mating distribution treatment will be in mid-June because that is when this treatment will be most effective.”