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Published June 15, 2009, 11:00 AM

Minnesota Department of Agriculture launches 2009 gypsy moth trapping program

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is setting nearly 27,000 gypsy moth traps across eastern Minnesota this spring as part of its annual program to monitor Minnesota’s forests and urban areas for new infestations by the destructive tree pest.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is setting nearly 27,000 gypsy moth traps across eastern Minnesota this spring as part of its annual program to monitor Minnesota’s forests and urban areas for new infestations by the destructive tree pest.

Unlike the recently discovered infestation of emerald ash borers in St. Paul ash trees, the gypsy moth is a familiar threat to Minnesota’s trees. For nearly 30 years, MDA has been eradicating “start-up” infestations and delaying a full-scale invasion of the state’s forests.

Compared to emerald ash borer, gypsy moth infestations are easier to detect and fight because the moth caterpillars do their damage out in the open as they munch on the leaves of trees. While emerald ash borer attacks only ash trees, gypsy moth caterpillars will attack many tree species including oak, poplar, birch and willow. Like other tree pests, gypsy moth populations spread slowly on their own, but can be moved to new areas when people carry infested materials with them to new areas.

The MDA’s early warning system against the moths is a network of small, tent-shaped traps attached to trees or poles. The cardboard traps contain a pheromone to lure male gypsy moths. Once inside, the moths become entangled in the sticky interior. In the fall, workers remove the traps and count the moths inside. When MDA finds a significant number of moths in an area, it moves in to eradicate them.

MDA’s 2008 monitoring program discovered record levels of gypsy moth infestations – including new infestations in the Twin Cities suburbs of Minnetonka and Richfield. The department conducted treatments in May for the Twin Cities infestations, and will treat the greater Minnesota infestations this summer.

MDA Plant Protection Director Geir Friisoe said monitoring is a key part of the fight against gypsy moths.

“Our efforts have pushed back the full-scale invasion of gypsy moths by years if not decades,” Friisoe said. “Every year we delay its establishment is a victory for the environment and the economy.”

Citizens are asked not to disturb the traps and to call the Arrest the Pest Hotline at 1-888-545-MOTH if they would like traps moved or removed from their properties. For more details about the trapping program and gypsy moths, visit the MDA website at www.mda.state.mn.us/gypsymoth.

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