October 27, 2015
State agency plans second meeting to update gypsy moth plan
By IRENE NOLAN
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services'
Plant Industry Division has scheduled a second public meeting for
Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. in the Fessenden Center on Highway 12 in
At the meeting, division officials will update their plan to eradicate
a severe, isolated infestation of the invasive gypsy moth in the Buxton
Woods State Reserve area of Buxton and Frisco -- an infestation that
threatens the maritime forest's live oak trees with defoliation and
"The infestation is intense, but small and very treatable," said Chris
Elder, gypsy moth program manager in the Plant Industry Division.
The division presented information about the problem and presented some ideas for treatment at a public meeting on Sept. 22.
Now, Elder said, division officials are looking at a different treatment over an expanded area in Buxton and Frisco.
Elder says the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, is an invasive forest pest
from Europe and Asia that was first introduced in the U.S. in
Massachusetts in 1869. Since then, the moths have been slowly
spreading south and west and can be spread via vehicles, trailers, and
other outdoor articles.
To the north, much of coastal Virginia is quarantined because of gypsy
moth infestations, and the entire state of North Carolina has been
surveyed for gypsy moths since 1982. Since then, more than 100
intervention programs have been initiated to either eradicate isolated
populations or suppress populations close to the leading edge of the
gypsy moth's advancing front.
One county, Currituck, and a portion of a second county, Dare --
generally from Kill Devil Hills north -- are currently quarantined for
This spring, the gypsy moth turned up on Hatteras Island when a
property owner notified the NCDA-CS that various stages of the pest has
been identified by a pest control company on several live oak trees
that had been defoliated on his property near Old Doctor's Road in
Elder says the division confirmed the presence of the gypsy moths and
hung numerous green and orange traps on trees and shrubs throughout the
island this summer -- especially in the Buxton Woods. The traps are
designed to capture male moths.
"Unfortunately," the division said in a letter to landowners earlier
this month, "extremely high male moth catches and the identification of
other gypsy moth life stages this summer indicate that a reproducing
population is established near Buxton Woods."
Gypsy moths feed particularly on live oaks on Hatteras Island, and
Elder says heavy defoliation was observed on many of the live oaks
along Highway 12 in Buxton this spring.
Most of the damage is done by the larval stage of the gypsy moth, which
is a caterpillar. When the caterpillars hatch in the spring, they
spread out and feed on the leaves. The caterpillars then morph into
cocoons, from which the adult moths eventually emerge.
The female gypsy moth, which is flightless, can lay an egg mass
composed of between 300 and 1,000 viable eggs, which hatch in the
spring and start the life cycle again.
Repeated defoliation by the caterpillars can kill live oaks, which
would be devastating to the ecology of the maritime forest. As the
division official notes in its letter, it "would result in the radical
alteration of this sensitive natural habitat."
At the meeting on Sept. 22, division officials began soliciting public
input on various alternatives for treating the gypsy moth invasion.
They will also be talking to landowners about how they can help fight
the moth, which includes learning to identify various life stages of
Elder said the Plant Industry Division will also be seeking input from
other agencies, such as the Forest Service and the National Park
Service, which owns land in the Buxton Woods.
effective treatments for gypsy moth infestations are available and one
was discussed at the September gathering. It is known as Btk.
According to the division's website, Btk -- Bacillus thuringiensis var.
kurstaki -- is a bacterium commonly found in forest soils
worldwide. It has become one of the most valuable biological pest
management tools for a variety of agricultural, forestry, and urban
pests. While it is highly toxic to target pests, it is very safe
in regard to humans and animals and gardens.
Elder said that Btk is applied by aerial spraying, which is done in the
spring after the caterpillars hatch. It is usually applied twice, five
to 10 days apart. Ground applications are also used in the most heavily
However, Elder said in an e-mail last week that the division has
somewhat changed its approach to treating the gypsy moth infestation.
"After discussing the situation with some ecologists and moth/butterfly
experts," he said. "We are changing our approach with regards to the
aerial treatment. We are shifting towards using Gypchek, a product that
contains a virus that is specific only to gypsy moths."
Edler said that Btk would still be used as a ground treatment within the 60-acre core of the infestation.
In addition, the treatment area for aerial spraying has been expanded
from 2,500 to 3,000 acres. The proposed area can be seen in the
map with this article.
If the Plant Industry Division proceeds with treatment, Elder said
there would be a follow-up meeting in the winter and that the division
will prepare an environmental assessment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on gypsy moths, go to the website of the Plant Industry Division, http://www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/Plant/entomology/GM.htm.