ANF plans for gypsy moth response
Federal officials are developing plans to combat gypsy moth on the Allegheny National Forest.
The ANF is now accepting comments on a scoping document that — if approved — could result in aerial insecticide treatment as soon as next April.
According to a statement from the ANF, federal officials have partnered with with private foresters and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct gypsy moth egg mass surveys.
“Preliminary results show notable egg mass numbers, especially in oak forests north of State Route 59,” the statement explained. “The high numbers observed to-date are indicative of a building population.”
“Although data collection is ongoing, we believe aerial treatments to suppress gypsy moth populations may be needed as early as late April 2021,” officials said in the scoping document.
The plan calls for “aerial application of a naturally occurring native bacterium … aerially to the crowns of overstory trees.” The bacteria — Bacillus thuringiensis — “is a common naturally-occurring bacterium that has been formulated into a commercial biological insecticide to control gypsy moth.”
It is not “considered toxic to humans, wildlife, fish, or other biota,” the plan states, noting that advance notice will be provided in advance of treatment.
The scoping document outlines the depth of the potential problem.
“Defoliation becomes apparent when egg mass densities exceed 250 per acre,” officials explain. “High egg mass densities have been found in the northern half of the forest, particularly near the Allegheny Reservoir. Densities ranging from 280 to 2,840 egg masses per acre have been observed in this area.”
And they caution that areas with lower estimates “may now have a higher density than previously observed, as female gypsy moths were still laying eggs when early surveys (were) conducted. Adult females, which lay eggs throughout August, and audible feeding have been reported in many areas.”
They caution that “natural factors like a virus or fungal pathogen” have previously helped control gypsy moth populations. “Management action, however, may be needed soon to protect recreation areas, high use areas, and high value areas from serious gypsy moth damage by limiting defoliation of highly favored host trees.”
The document states that such treatment is a “suitable activity” in wilderness areas but is not anticipated at this time.
“We do not anticipate treating in wilderness areas, but believe it is important to have a rapid response ability if treatments are needed to protect wilderness character in the future.”