Moth open house slated Wednesday

By Gary Budzak

February 16, 2014

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will hold a gypsy moth open house at 8 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Delaware YMCA Community Center, 1121 S. Houk Road.

“Central Ohio is right on the leading edge of the infestation that has come into the state,” Dave Adkins, gypsy moth program manager, told The Gazette.

The department said 51 of Ohio’s 88 counties have established gypsy moth populations.

“We’ve seen a resurgence in the last year or so, mainly due to the drought in 2012,” Adkins said. “There are natural fungus that help keep the gypsy moth populations under control, but the drought pretty much knocked out the fungus. So the gypsy moth has had a chance to explode on us. If we continue to have some wetter springs and summers, the fungus will build back and the cycle will go back down again.”

Native to Europe and Asia, the gypsy moth was confirmed to be in Ashtabula County in 1971, more than 100 years after it was introduced to the United States. In its caterpillar stage, the moth feeds on leaves of more than 300 species of trees and shrubs, particularly oak, limiting their ability to photosynthesize and killing a tree in two years. The moth’s life cycle is completed in one year.

The Department of Agriculture will begin aerial treatments throughout the state in June, starting in the south and working its way north.

“What we’re doing in Delaware is a treatment with mating disruption,” Adkins said. “The population is at a level where mating disruption should work. We won’t have to use anything harsher. The female gypsy moth doesn’t fly, so it emits a pheromone to draw the male to her. We’ve been able to replicate that pheromone and by dispersing it into the air just prior to mating season, we can saturate the air and cause confusion by the males so they can’t locate the females. She ends up laying unfertilized eggs, and we reduce the population that way.”

Adkins said the pheromone application is non-toxic.

At the open houses, attendees can learn more about the pest, view maps of treatment areas and pose questions to the department staff.