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Gypsy moth trapping season underway (05/30/2004)
Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) Commissioner Gene Hugoson today announced that the department will soon begin its summer trapping program to monitor the state for evidence of start-up populations of gypsy moth, a destructive tree pest gradually moving toward the state from the east.

Now in its 31st year, the MDA's Gypsy Moth Trapping Program is the department's largest insect survey program. This year, seasonal staff will set nearly 16,000 pup-tent shaped traps in a grid pattern throughout the eastern part of the state. With so many traps in place, MDA plant protection officials say the MDA is well positioned to detect and eradicate start-up gypsy moth infestations across the state and keep America's most devastating tree pest out of Minnesota for as long as possible.

Ranked as America's single most destructive pest of trees and shrubs, gypsy moths were introduced into Massachusetts from Europe in the 1860s in an attempt to breed a hardier silk worm. Instead the caterpillars escaped and headed for the trees with disastrous effects. Their ability to feed and survive on more than 300 trees and woody plant species made the moths at home in North America as they slowly spread westward in recent decades.

"Thanks in part to the MDA's trapping program, we've been able to slow the moths' migration into Minnesota," Commissioner Hugoson said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to stop it entirely. Since the moth is moving in from Wisconsin, the areas most affected include the Twin Cities and southeastern Minnesota."

Trees subjected to two or more years of moth defoliation may be killed as the overall health of the tree declines and it becomes more susceptible to attack by other pests. Oak, poplar, birch and willow are preferred hosts but even conifers are susceptible to attack. Minnesota's primary infestation areas so far have been in the southeast and the urban areas - especially the Twin Cities. In the spring of 2002 in south Minneapolis, the MDA successfully eradicated the largest population of gypsy moths yet detected in the state.

The gypsy moth spreads slowly on its own. Unfortunately, people unwittingly help the moth spread by giving it a free ride into new territory. The moths' eggs can be deposited on any solid surface, including vehicle tires and nursery stock. People camping in infested areas such as Wisconsin and Michigan are particularly susceptible to carrying this unwanted pest home on camping gear, in firewood or even the wheel wells of their vehicle.

Minnesota's battle against the moth starts with the small cardboard box traps MDA workers attach to trees and poles. MDA workers place these traps at a rate of about one per square mile or every 1,500 meters as a method of detecting new infestations. Each trap contains a pheromone designed to lure adult male gypsy moths. Once inside, the moth becomes entangled in a sticky substance coating the trap's interior. In late summer or early fall, MDA workers remove the traps and count the moths that are captured in them.

When they find a significant number of moths in one area, they move in to eradicate the pest before it can become firmly established. During the 2003 trapping season, the MDA detected new infestations near the Southdale shopping center in Edina and near the town of Rollingstone in Winona County. MDA recently conducted eradication treatments at the Edina infestation site and will soon conduct eradicate treatments at the Rollingstone infestation site. Survey traps will be placed within the treatment blocks to determine success.

Whenever possible, private landowners are asked for advance permission to place a trap on their land. Traps placed on private property for which a landowner could not be contacted will be immediately removed should the landowner object. The MDA phone number is placed on each trap and a door-hanger flyer is left on the landowner's door that has information about the program and a hotline number they may call for additional information.

This program is designed to protect the trees and property of all Minnesota landowners. Maintaining this trapping network is vital to MDA's efforts to control the moth. The help of the public in protecting traps from vandalism or destruction is of enormous benefit. It is also recommended that homeowners not set their own traps, because this can interfere with the state's ability to detect infestations. For more information about gypsy moth, please call MDA Gypsy Moth Program Coordinator Kimberly Thielen-Cremers at 651-296-6692. 


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