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05/14/2019

DCNR to Begin Gypsy Moth Suppression Effort in Lackawanna County

Harrisburg, PA -- Today, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the start of aerial spraying of woodlands in Lackawanna County to combat gypsy moth populations poised for spring outbreaks in some sections of northeastern Pennsylvania.

"As the insects emerge and begin feeding, the suppression effort likely will begin later this week," Dunn said. "Our recent string of wet, cool springs has again emerged as an enemy of the gypsy moth, reducing insect populations and drastically reducing acreage to be sprayed this spring."

DCNR's Bureau of Forestry will treat 1,490 acres, all in Lackawanna County and all listed as private or residential lands. Owners requested and qualified for treatment through an existing state/county treatment program.

Aerial spraying in Lackawanna County will be conducted by helicopter; is weather-dependent; and is expected to last up to two days. 

In 2018, a total of eight counties were sprayed in a spring suppression program covering 20,310 acres in Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Northampton, Schuylkill, Snyder, and Union counties. 

For the first time in many years, there is no need to spray state, federal, or municipal lands in 2019. Gypsy moth populations are down throughout the state after a resurgence began in 2015.

"In Pennsylvania, these destructive, invasive insects go through cycles where outbreaks occur every five to 10 years," said Bureau of Forestry Forest Health Manager Dr. Donald Eggen. "In 2019, we are in the fifth year of an outbreak in northeastern Pennsylvania, but it is declining because of the gypsy moth fungus disease and the wet spring weather we have been having recently. Hopefully, populations will stay low for three to five years."

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. 

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, the 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. 

MEDIA CONTACTTerry Brady, 717-705-2225

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