DATCP: Gypsy moth treatments proposed for 16 counties, public meetings set

Contact: Nkauj (pronounced ‘gow’) Vang, 608-224-4591, [email protected]

MADISON—Yellow planes will be a familiar sight in some counties this spring and summer, while in others, it will make an appearance for the first time.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Slow the Spread Program plans to treat 54 sites covering 147,577 acres in 16 counties to help control the spread of the destructive forest pest, the gypsy moth. This plan is separate from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Suppression Program.

The counties are Bayfield, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Rusk, Trempealeau, Vernon and Washburn.

Gypsy moth caterpillars mainly feed on leaves of oak trees, but they also will feed on the leaves of hundreds of other species of trees and shrubs. When they feed in large numbers, defoliation can occur.

“The gypsy moth is a serious pest that threatens our forests and urban trees, and it can have a negative impact on Wisconsin’s timber, paper, nursery and tourism industries. It can be very unpleasant seeing defoliated trees and thousands of caterpillars in the spring and summer,” said Chris Lettau, gypsy moth program coordinator.

Aerial treatments will start in May when the caterpillars begin to hatch. Thirty-one sites will be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki or Btk. Btk is a naturally occurring soil bacterium and has been successfully used in gypsy moth treatments for more than 30 years. Some of these sites will receive two applications of Btk, about seven to 10 days apart.

In June and July, an additional 23 sites will be treated with pheromone (FAIR-uh-mone) flakes. The flakes are flat, green and about 1/16 of an inch in size. They carry the scent of the female adult gypsy moth that confuses the male moths and disrupts the mating cycle. The flakes are applied about a quarter of a cup per acre.

Btk and pheromone flakes have no known toxicity to people, animals, insects, fish and plants. The products must be applied with an airplane to be effective.

“When we spray an area, the planes must fly about 50 feet above the treetops for the products to get onto the tree leaves. This means the planes are loud, and they will make repeated passes over an area until the spraying is complete. We begin spraying in the early morning to take advantage of low winds and high humidity,” Lettau said.

Four public meetings will be held in March to give citizens, foresters, local officials and others an opportunity to learn about the program and comment on the proposed treatment plan.

The public meetings are scheduled for:

Madison: Wednesday, March 4, at the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 2811 Agriculture Drive, Room 231, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Altoona: Thursday, March 5, at the Eau Claire County UW-Extension, 227 First St. West, Altoona, Agricultural Resource Center, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

La Crosse: Monday, March 9, at the South Community Library, 1307 S. 16th St., La Crosse, South Meeting Room, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Ashland: Thursday, March 12, at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 County Highway G, Ashland, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit the Web site http://www.gypsymoth.wi.gov, call the toll-free gypsy moth hotline at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) and select option 3, or e-mail [email protected].