By Max Johnston
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is using planes to fight off an aerial menace that is destroying the state’s trees: the gypsy moth.
Now it is opening a ground attack, offering open houses to inform people about how to stop the pest’s spread.
The open houses offer citizens in those new areas a chance to learn about gypsy moths and how the department is combatting them, said Gypsy Moth Operation Manager David Adkins.
“We provide this as an opportunity for them to come in, find out about the gypsy moths, about the project, when it will occur, and any other questions they may have about it,” Adkins said.
One open house is scheduled today (Feb. 14) at St. Elizabeth Church in Licking County.
The event gives people a chance to speak to program managers, learn about the pest and see maps of treatment areas, the department said in a press release.
“Department staff members will host several 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,” the department said via press release.
The gypsy moth is one of North America’s most devastating forest pests, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It is so problematic because unlike other pests it feeds on more than 300 types of trees and shrubs.
The gypsy moth was introduced to the U.S. in Massachusetts and has since spread across the Northeast, reaching the Great Lakes area in the mid 1990s, according to the Forest Service. Ohio is on the “advancing front” of the gypsy moth. In response, farm officials have been spraying larvicide from planes on affected areas and are expanding the control operation.
Adkins said the department is targeting the gypsy moth because of how it harms Ohio’s lumber and tourism industries.
“It is of economic importance to our timber industry and our recreational industry in the state to maintain these populations at a low level that don’t become detrimental to our forests,” Adkins said.
The gypsy moth populations can densely occupy a forest, said Michigan State University entomology Professor Deb McCullough.
“If you have an acre of forest, you can have over a million caterpillars in there feeding on leaves,” McCullough said.
According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, 51 counties in the state are under gypsy moth quarantine. When an area is under quarantine, various household items that could carry gypsy moth are subject to inspection.
Inspections are necessary to avoid spreading the gypsy moth, McCullough said.
“It’s not difficult to unknowingly move egg masses on things like logs or Christmas trees,” McCullough said. “If you’re in a state that doesn’t have gypsy moth, you don’t want gyspy moth.”