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DCNR sprays woodlands for spongy moths

FILE - In this July 28, 2008, file photo, a female Lymantria dispar moth lays her eggs on the trunk of a tree in the Salmon River State Forest in Hebron, Conn. In July 2021, the Entomological Society of America announced it is dropping the common name of this destructive insect that is also an ethnic slur against a group of people. (AP Photo/Bob Child, File)

Spraying of woodlands to prevent the destructive activities of the spongy moth was conducted across the state this spring, including in the region.

Treatments by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the State Game Commission were concentrated on thousands of acres of state forests and state park lands across Lycoming County.

The treatments are very effective, according to DCNR Forest Health Manager Dr. Donald A. Eggen.

Two different insecticides were used this year.

One is tebufenozide, and the other is Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki. Both are ingested by young caterpillars as they feed on foliage. Both insecticides have been used previously protect crops from other pests according to DCNR’s website. The insecticides are sprayed onto the foliage using fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters.

The small caterpillars in May must feed on the treated foliage to be affected, Eggen noted.

Surveys are being conducted to assess the results in treatment areas. The spongy month is considered an invasive species feeding on hardwoods, especially oaks, and conifers such as white pine and eastern hemlock.

DCNR has been conducting the suppression programs since 1972. State parks in the region included in the spray program are Little Pine in Lycoming County and Ravensburg in Clinton County.

Woodlands already being negatively impacted by other factors such as changing weather patterns have become more vulnerable to the devastation caused by the spongy moth, according to officials.

In 2021, the state had over 300,000 acres defoliated by the spongy moth, with total defoliation expected to increase this year.

Private landowners concerned about spongy moth infestation on their properties should check for egg masses later this summer.

They can then contact aerial applicators to have spraying done next year.

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