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Illinois Trying to Stop Pesky, Hungry Gypsy Moth

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PHOTO: The gypsy moth feeds on over 250 species of trees and shrubs, and Illinois is applying treatments in nine areas to stop its spread. Photo credit: Jeff Delonge/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The gypsy moth feeds on over 250 species of trees and shrubs, and Illinois is applying treatments in nine areas to stop its spread. Photo credit: Jeff Delonge/Wikimedia Commons.
July 1, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Small airplanes are flying over Northern Illinois this week as part of a summer battle to stop a destructive pest. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is spraying about 38,000 acres at nine sites to stop the spread of the gypsy moth.

State plant and pesticide specialist Scott Schirmer says the insect feeds on over 250 species of trees and shrubs in both rural and urban areas.

"As they feed on those trees, they obviously eat the leaves, which can put the trees in distress, making them more susceptible to other diseases, native insects and environmental stressors, such as drought," Schirmer says.

Schirmer says one gypsy moth caterpillar can eat 11 square feet of vegetation during its lifetime, so the presence of millions of moths can devastate trees and forests. Areas that will be targeted for treatment include: Boone, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, Stephenson, Will and Winnebago counties.

This is the time of year that the moth enters its mating life stage, and Schirmer says that's exactly what the application is trying to stop.

"It's a pheromone that basically makes an entire area smell like a female gypsy moth, so the males can't find the females and mate, and create more," he explains. "We're basically getting rid of that infestation, and they can't build further populations and create more problems."

He adds that the application will not disrupt any other wildlife and is not harmful to people or pets.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL