Travelers with a keen eye along Highway 12 may have noticed flashes of
bright orange in the bushes, trees and beaches that line the road.
Located from Nags Head all the way to Ocracoke Island, these small
receptacles that resemble a mini-pup tent are part of the efforts of
the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) and Consumer
Services' Plant Industry Division to monitor and control the gypsy moth
have 20,000 of these traps across the state, and we put them in areas
where the gypsy moth population is denser,” says Chris Elder, gypsy
moth program manager in the Plant Industry Division. “There’s probably
several hundred traps in between Ocracoke and Nags Head.”
trap emits a scent similar to the pheromones that female gypsy moths
give off to attract their male counterparts. The males are subsequently
drawn in, and get stuck in the interior of the small traps – formally
known as Delta Traps – which are lined with a sticky material.
are not toxic to humans or other animals at all, and humans will not
pick up on the smell,” says Elder. “But they are sticky inside, so
people will want to keep their hands away from the traps.”
purpose of these Delta traps is twofold. For one thing, each trap can
hold a small amount of gypsy moths, which can potentially put a minor
dent in the population, if needed. In addition, the traps help the
Plant Industry Division survey and monitor how effective recent gypsy
moth treatments have been in controlling and curtailing the population.
2015, an isolated infestation was reported in Buxton Woods State
Reserve area of Buxton and Frisco - an infestation that threatened the
maritime forest's live oak trees with defoliation and eventually death.
Gypsy moths feed particularly on live oaks on Hatteras Island, and
heavy defoliation was observed on many of the live oaks in Buxton when
the infestation occurred several years ago.
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. “That’s what happened down in
Buxton in 2015 when we found the population there,” says Elder. “We
intervened to keep that from happening, and we hope to eradicate this
population. There was no [infestation] in 2016 and 2017 due to
treatments, and this year we wanted to make sure that after Hurricane
Matthew, which caused additional damage to the [local foliage], that
the trees weren’t even more stressed.”
gypsy moth, which is officially known as 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 equipment.
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
April, the NCDA contracted with a helicopter to treat 750 acres of area
in Buxton three times. At roughly the same time, the orange Delta traps
made their appearance along the island.
traps will stay in place until early August, when they will be
collected and reviewed to monitor the effectiveness of the treatments,
and to determine the current gypsy moth population in the region. Most
of the traps are located along the highway, which means that visitors
with an attention to detail may be able to spot them while cruising
along the island.
basically used as a follow-up to gauge the effectiveness [of our
treatments] and to see if that population has spread,” says Elder.
“Hopefully they are not intrusive to people, but it’s important to do
this survey work to make sure the Outer Banks is OK.”