The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is scheduled to perform its third and final gypsy moth treatment in the Lowry Hill area on May 29, pending weather conditions.
The department will aerially apply the biologically insecticide bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk) over a portion of the Lowry Hill neighborhood. It will apply the insecticide between Mount Curve and Franklin avenues to the north and south and Irving and Dupont avenues to the west and east.
The application will start early in the morning and will take less than 30 minutes to complete, said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, supervisor of the department’s Pest Mitigation and Regulatory Response Unit.
Gypsy moths are one of North America’s most destructive pests, according to the department. Gypsy moth caterpillars have defoliated entire forests in eastern states with significant infestations, causing millions of dollars in damage to urban landscapes.
The moths have continued to expand westward in North America, according to the department. Female gypsy moths, which are unable to fly, will deposit their eggs either on natural or man-made objects, such as firewood or car wheel wells. Therefore, humans play a role in expanding the moths’ range by transporting such objects into non-infested areas.
The agriculture department diagnosed the Lowry Hill infestation last summer, when a resident noticed caterpillars on trees. Department staff found thousands of caterpillars and hundreds of egg masses upon inspection of the area.
The department placed a quarantine on the area last July, restricting the movement of trees and woody material, including firewood, out of the area. The department also urged residents in the quarantined area to inspect outdoor equipment, household items and vehicles that had been sitting outside for egg masses. The quarantine remains in effect, and the department still encourages those precautions.
MDA decided to treat the area with Btk, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved bacterium with low risk for humans or animals other than caterpillars. The product is organic certified for food crops and has no known health effects for humans and other animals.
Thielen Cremers said the first two treatments, which took place May 16 and May 22, went really well. She said some residents weren’t aware of the first treatment, noting that the department received calls from some about the low-flying airplane it uses to apply the treatment.
The department will apply the final treatment in a significantly smaller area than it did the first two treatments. Thielen Cremers said the department will follow up at the infested site for two years of intensive surveying, blanketing the area with tent-shaped traps. It will begin setting those traps next month.
Thielen Cremers said there were millions of tiny caterpillars in the infested area before the department applied the treatment. She noted the great weather on the treatment days, which she said is good news, because the caterpillars like to feed on nice weather days. Btk only kills the caterpillars when they ingest it.
The agriculture department has traditionally lifted quarantines in mid-to-late June, Thielen Cremers said, though it will determine the specific date for lifting the Lowry Hill quarantine after the final application. She said she always cautions people to monitor their back yards and be on the lookout for the caterpillars, which have five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots on their backs.
Visit http://www.mda.state.mn.us/gypsymoth to learn more about gypsy moths and the department’s treatment plans.