DCNR Gauging Gypsy Moth Damage, Cost of Spraying Next Spring

HARRISBURG – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis said counties enrolled in the state’s gypsy moth suppression program in 2008 can expect to pay about $17 an acre for aerial spraying to combat the woodland insect pest population.

“We know there were reports of severe defoliation in some areas of the state, and increased requests from counties for DCNR spraying next spring reflect the scope of these gypsy moth infestations,” DiBerardinis said. “This spring, 11 counties participated in the control program, while at least 30 counties are requesting spraying of private land in 2008.”

Gypsy moth infestation has been high in some areas the past two years and state and local observations point to similar insect levels next spring. Though aerial and ground survey findings are incomplete, statewide defoliation is expected to increase from 700,000 acres in 2006 to about 900,000 acres in 2007.

“The amount of acreage likely to be enrolled in the 2008 spray program, as well as associated costs and available resources all are being closely reviewed,” said DiBerardinis. “This analysis points to a $17-an-acre spraying cost to counties.”

With an eye toward next spring, DCNR foresters have been reviewing aerial defoliation figures, conducting annual insect egg-mass counts and working closely with county officials to pinpoint spraying needs and estimate costs of control measures for local governments.

As targeted spray areas increase next year, county contributions again will help cover costs of what has been a longstanding, cooperative effort among the Bureau of Forestry, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Unit and county and municipal governments.

“Gov. Rendell’s recently approved 2008 budget earmarks an additional $3 million in state funding for the 2008 spraying effort but, as with this year’s program, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the amount of federal funds for next year,” DiBerardinis said. “We expect some funds but we can’t predict how much at this time.”

Besides fiscal constraints, aircraft availability also could limit the scope of the 2008 spray program. Contracted services provided by helicopters — usually deployed in private land spraying — would facilitate coverage of about 150,000 acres. Fixed-wing aircraft, better suited for state land coverage, can spray about 200,000 acres.

“If county requests exceed our ability to provide spraying, we will follow a priority system that ranks acreage according to land use, severity of infestation, prior defoliation and other factors,” DiBerardinis said.

Earlier this summer, interested landowners were asked to contact their county gypsy moth coordinator to begin the process for determining proposed treatment areas for 2008. A list of county coordinators’ telephone numbers are on DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry Web site at www.dcnr.state.pa.us.

DCNR opted not to conduct aerial spraying in 2003, 2004 and 2005 because of sharply declining gypsy moth populations, during which a naturally occurring gypsy moth fungus proved deadly to the insect that defoliates oaks and certain hardwoods and conifers. In spring 2006, DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry targeted 81,690 acres in 8 counties.

This spring, about 65,000 acres were sprayed in 19 counties. Included were 11 counties that enrolled 35,919 acres of private land in Blair, Bedford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties. In addition, state lands were sprayed in Centre, Clinton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Luzerne, Mifflin, Somerset and Union counties.

“Spraying helps contain the widespread gypsy moth damage we have seen in the past, but the major controlling factor is, and will continue to be, the prevalence of a gypsy moth fungus in our woodlands,” said Dr. Donald A Eggen, forest health manager with the Bureau of Forestry. “Thanks largely to the gypsy moth’s natural enemy — Entomophaga maimaiga —gypsy moth numbers had been way down for several years in most areas of the state.”

Gypsy moth defoliation dropped sharply from a peak of 837,594 acres in 2000 to a low of only 1,404 acres in 2003.

Forestry bureau experts identify the gypsy moth as one of the most destructive forest pests in Pennsylvania. Introduced to North America in 1869 at Medford, Mass., where it was used in a silk-production experiment, the insect first reached Pennsylvania in Luzerne County in 1932 and has infested every county since.

For more information on insect pests and other forestry topics, visit DCNR’s Web site (click on “State Forests”).

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