The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has completed the first round of aerial on ground spraying for a gypsy moth infestation in an area of the Buxton Wood maritime forest.
A second and final round of treatment is scheduled in about 10 days, said Chris Elder, NCDA&CS Gypsy Moth Program manager.
A small helicopter flew just about 150 feet over the treetops in south Buxton and north Frisco to spray about 1,478 acres of the infested forest. A small plane flew above the helicopter to keep on eye on the operation, but was not spraying. An ATV also was used to spray the most heavily infested area near Old Doctor’s Road.
Both the helicopter and the plane were taking off and landing from Billy Mitchell Airfield in Frisco, where a large tanker truck was parked to refill the helicopter.
The first round of spraying was done in two parts — late Sunday evening and early Monday morning.
“The product we are using is called Gypchek, which is a virus that is specific only to gypsy moths,” Elder said. “It does not harm plants, people, or any other animals besides gypsy moth caterpillars.”
The ground treatment is a product called Btk, which affects only small caterpillars and is harmless to people, other animals, and plants.
“Our field monitoring activities last year determined that a reproducing population of the highly destructive gypsy moth exists on the island,” Elder said. “Our planned treatment activities are designed to protect trees and shrubs in the vicinity of Buxton Woods and to preserve the unique island ecosystem.”
Gypsy moths feed on the leaves of more than 300 different species of trees and shrubs, predominantly oaks and hardwoods. When areas become heavily infested, trees may be completely stripped of foliage, leaving yard trees and entire forests more susceptible to attacks from other pests. Severe infestations often lead to tree death.
Gypsy moth caterpillars can also pose public health concerns for people with respiratory problems. In areas with high-density gypsy moth populations, the caterpillar hairs and droppings may cause severe allergic reactions.
NCDA&CS has addressed spot introductions of the gypsy moth across North Carolina since the 1970s. The treatment will be done in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Elder said.
Public hearings were held in September and November in Buxton to discuss this infestation and receive input from all stakeholders about treatment options.
For more information, including maps and a description of the proposed treatment area, go to www.ncagr.com/gypsymoth or contact NCDA&CS toll free at 800-206-9333. More immediate updates, including spray updates, will be posted on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NCAgriculture.
UPDATE: Gypsy moth spraying set to start April 24 or 25