Following an infestation about eight years ago, gypsy moths are again rearing their heads in and around Wauseon.
Traps collected in Reighard Park and at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in late July held a total of about 500 moths, City Council and Tree Commission member Rick Frey said. Last summer, he had noticed some of the gypsy moth caterpillars in a fairground tree.
“You really notice the caterpillars more than you notice the moths,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a serious problem that we can’t control.”
Frey plans to contact an expert at the Ohio Department of Agriculture to gauge how serious the infestation is in the city. If necessary, the city would spray for the caterpillars next spring when they emerge from brownish, quarter-sized egg masses left on trees.
Frey first became acquainted with gypsy moths after attending a conference on the subject 20 years ago. Now he performs an annual check for infestations in Reighard Park, saying once they’re found in a location they’re usually there to stay.
“I think it’s impossible to totally eradicate them, but you can cut them down to control them,” Frey said.
The city sprayed the park two years consecutively about eight years ago after a heavy infestation was discovered. Frey recalled that the pesky caterpillars were literally falling from trees. One oak tree – a species favored by the caterpillers – suffered extensive damage from their feeding.
“There was literally not a leaf on that tree. They completely defoliated it,” he said.
A tree can survive an initial infestation, but may die if attacked two or three years consecutively.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has been battling gypsy moths across the state for 20 years. Its “Slow the Spread” campaign involves a variety of treatments, primarily saturating infested areas with female gypsy moth pheremones. The treatments don’t kill the gypsy moths but confuse the males and disrupt mating practices.
ODA spokesperson Brett Gates said the present general infestation line extends diagonally from northwest to southeast Ohio. The department is conducting a grid-type trapping and treatment process across the entire state to determine where the suppression and eradication program is most needed. The depth of the individual infestation decides which of several preventative programs is used.
Most of the treatments are conducted by airplane. In lower population cases the pheremones are applied to tree tops.
“The objective is to eradicate the smaller populatons before they can establish themselves. We continue to conduct treatments and monitor populations,” Gates said.
Data that will be available in a few months will determine whether the ODA will implement treatments in Fulton County.
The gypsy moth has been present in Ohio about 60 years. The state has had a preventative program in place the past 20 years.
According to the ODA Division of Plant Industry, female gypsy moths can lay the egg masses on trees and other surfaces. Gypsy moth caterpillars grow to about 2 inches long with distinctive blue and red dots on their backs. They feed on over 300 types of trees and shrubs, so ravenously that they can cause major damage, and even death, to the plant.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.