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Portions of Avery & Caldwell to be treated for spongy moth

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Last Updated on May 15, 2023 10:02 am

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) will soon start treating for spongy moth, formerly known as gypsy moth, the agency recently announced.

A portion of Avery and Caldwell counties, along with locations in Currituck, Dare and Rockingham counties are in the treatment area. Treatments are weather dependent and may start as early as May 31 and could continue through June 20.

“We have a total of six blocks and 13,937 acres to treat,” said Sara Lalk, NCDA&CS forest health research operations manager. “We plan to start on May 31 in Currituck and Dare counties, followed by treatment in Rockingham County. We will then start treatment of Avery and Caldwell counties on June 12, adding or subtracting a few days to cover possible weather delays.”

An interactive map of the treatment areas can be found at this link.

Prior to normal spongy moth mating periods, low-altitude fixed-wing aircraft will disperse SPLAT Gypsy Moth-Organic Mating Disruption infused with the naturally occurring spongy moth pheromone, according to NCDA&CS.

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. The pheromone is not harmful to humans, animals or plants, and it will not affect other insect species, according to NCDA&CS.

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 according to NCDA&CS.

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 February. Public comments have been obtained from residents in the treatment areas.

For more information, or to request treatment notification via text or email, go to https://www.ncagr.gov/PLANTINDUSTRY/plant/entomology/ProposedSpongyMothTreatments.htmor contact NCDA&CS toll free at 800-206-9333.

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