The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) completed its eradication efforts for European gypsy moth this year with a 25-minute flight over an area in Tukwila, releasing a synthetic pheromone to disrupt gypsy moth mating.
At the same time, the annual trapping season is under way to detect any new gypsy moth populations that may have been introduced into the state.
“Although we’ve found gypsy moths every year since 1977, we’ve been able to keep permanent populations from establishing,” WSDA Acting Pest Program Manager Jim Marra said. “But it’s a year-round job to keep this pest from taking hold in our state.”
Gypsy moth caterpillars can cause significant damage to forests and urban landscapes by feeding on shrubs, trees, and other plants. The moth is established in 19 states in the East and upper Midwest, where it has caused millions of dollars in damage.
WSDA has hired 25 trappers to place 19,000 brightly colored gypsy moth traps across the state. The tent-shaped cardboard traps are non-toxic, have a sticky coating inside and contain a pheromone lure that attracts male moths. Traps that catch moths show entomologists where a population may be active.
These days, trappers are using smartphones and tablets to enter and track pest trap placements. Traps typically are placed in residential neighborhoods, business districts, ports, campsites and in rural areas. Inspectors will check them every two to three weeks during summer and early fall.
In May, WSDA applied a biological insecticide several times using ground-based equipment at a 10.5 acre site near South 149th Street and Interurban Avenue South in Tukwila. Trappers had discovered gypsy moth eggs and other evidence there last year. Work to complete the Tukwila gypsy moth project was finished July 8. A single-engine airplane flew over a 180-acre site south of the Foster Golf Links, releasing tiny, pheromone-impregnated flakes to prevent reproducing populations of gypsy moth from becoming established. The short flight was completed by 5:30 a.m.
Gypsy moths are just one of several pests WSDA tracks to protect Washington’s environment and safeguard the agriculture, horticulture, nursery, timber and forest industries.