NCDA&CS to treat spongy moth infestations in section of Watauga County

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 1:50 pm

Treatments for spongy moth (formerly known as the gypsy moth) infestations in several areas across North Carolina will start as early as June 7 and could continue through June 20, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 

A section of Watauga County is among those, see the screenshots below for location.

The other areas to be treated include:

  • Alleghany County
  • Buncombe County
  • Haywood County
  • Rockingham County
  • Stokes County
  • Yancey County

“We have a total of 10 blocks and 29,919 acres to treat,” said Sara Lalk, NCDA&CS forest health research operations manager. “We plan to start June 7 in Rockingham and Stokes counties. The treatment of Alleghany, Buncombe, Haywood, Watauga and Yancey counties will follow the week of June 10, adding or subtracting a few days to cover possible weather delays.”
Prior to normal spongy moth mating periods, low-altitude fixed-wing aircraft will disperse SPLAT Gypsy Moth-Organic infused with the naturally occurring spongy moth pheromone.
The presence of the pheromone makes male spongy moths unable to follow the natural pheromone scent trails released by the females. This causes a decrease in mating success and reduces the spongy moth population, Lalk said. The pheromone is not harmful to humans, animals or plants, and it will not affect other insect species.
Spongy 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. Spongy moth caterpillars can also pose public health concerns for people with respiratory problems. In areas with high-density spongy moth populations, the caterpillar hairs and droppings may cause severe allergic reactions.
NCDA&CS has addressed spot introductions of the spongy moth across North Carolina since the 1970s. The treatment will be done in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
Homeowners in the treatment areas were notified about these infestations as well as treatment options in January and February. Information sessions were held within the affected communities and public comments from residents in the treatment areas were collected for consideration.
For more information or to request treatment notification via text or email, visit: or contact the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division toll-free at 800-206-9333.

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