Gypsy Moths

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and landing in trees far away from where they hatched.

The ballooning creates a nuisance because, if a property owner treats his own trees and neighbors don’t treat theirs, the neighbors’ moths can blow over to the next property anyway.

The caterpillars reach maturity from mid-June to early-July and are usually a nuisance late in June, Cotrone went on, flashing on a big screen pictures of the gypsy moth at various stages. At this point, pupation takes place and the caterpillars emerge as moths.

The gypsy moth is responsible for the damage or destruction of a number of trees in this area, including oak, birch, poplar and willow. Since gypsy moths are non-native (they were accidentally introduced into Massachusetts over 100 years ago), they have no predators or diseases that can kill them.

“2015 is over,” Cotrone said, as far as gypsy moth prevention. “They did their feeding and they did their multiplying.” The only step to take now is to look at prevention methods for a 2016 moth outbreak, he said.

In past years, the county government, with state funding, has sprayed insecticides for gypsy moth suppression. However, in 2009, officials decided to cut the suppression program due to budget restraints. This previous decision came, in part, because by 2009 gypsy moths hadn’t been a major problem for years.

At the Aug. 3 public meeting, Cotrone stressed that he is not affiliated with the county. “I wasn’t the guy who destroyed the gypsy moth suppression program,” he said.

Government action will be taken for gypsy moth spraying in 2016, Cotrone said, because the county “has heard you loud and clear. Eight hundred of you called the courthouse.”

There is no telling, however, how much spraying the county or state will do next year because its budget has not been set. Luzerne County is comprised of 370,000 acres of land. The most land in the entire state of Pennsylvania to be sprayed in one year was 200,000 acres, Cotrone said.

Currently, residents can submit applications through Luzerne County for the state’s 2016 gypsy moth suppression program. There are stipulations to be chosen for spraying: that the property is in a forested development; that the minimum egg mass density is reached; that favored tree species, such as oak and birch, are present; and that the property lays within a spray block of 23 acres.

For the last stipulation, if a landowner is adjacent to neighbors who also want to be sprayed and the total land is at least 23 acres, it can happen. But, if neighbors adjacent do not want their land sprayed or they don’t apply and the applicant has less than 23 acres, his land will not qualify.

At the meeting, some residents called out that their neighbors aren’t cooperating. “Knock on you neighbor’s door, give them the information, give them an application. That’s all I can tell you,” Cotrone said. Aug. 14 is the deadline for applications, which are available at luzernecounty.orgor at each township’s municipal building.

Ideally, having the government aerially spray a property with BT, the insecticide that “is only harmful if you’re a caterpillar,” Cotrone said, is the best way to fight the pest.

He went on to explain what residents can do if they are not chosen to have their property sprayed. Contractors can be hired to spray trees, either by helicopter or with equipment that shoots the spray 100 feet into the air.

He stressed that spraying must be done just as trees begin to leave in early May. If the leaves aren’t out yet, it will be too early and ineffective, he said. But, he added, if residents are going to hire a contractor to treat their land, they should call those professionals by the fall of this year, to secure the services.

To find such a professional, residents should look in the yellow pages for landscapers that spray trees and then determine if they are licensed applicators, Cotrone advised.

Insecticides can also be purchased by the home owner and applied either by injecting into the tree trunk, which requires special equipment, or by drenching the soil at the base of the tree. This can be costly, however.

Other measures, such as placing burlap bands on trees twice a day can be used to stop gypsy moths, but this is time consuming and not as effective, Cotrone said.

Finally, Cotrone concluded of what residents can do, “You called the county and complained, now call your state and federal legislators and tell them you want gypsy moth suppression.”