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October 2015

WSDA finds gypsy moths thick in Seattle

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Washington State Department of Agriculture has trapped 10 Asian gypsy months, plus 32 European gypsy moths, including 21 in a Seattle neighborhood.

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Agriculture has trapped 42 gypsy moths this year, including 21 of the European variety on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, a densely populated residential district. The 42 also include 10 Asian gypsy moths, which are considered more threatening to forests and orchards than European moths. WSDA hadn’t snared an Asian gypsy moth since 1999.

The discoveries may present WSDA with challenges. Spraying pesticides over Seattle neighborhoods to eradicate gypsy moths has drawn organized opposition in the past. WSDA did not spray on Capitol Hill after trapping six moths last summer. Meanwhile, Asian gypsy months were found at two ports and several other places this summer. They’re more mobile and eat a wider variety of trees and shrubs than European moths and pose a major threat to urban, suburban and rural landscapes, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

WSDA spokesman Mike Louisell said Wednesday that the department has traps to collect in northwest Washington, but the trapping season is nearly over. The agency likely will decide by the end of the year on a spring spraying program, he said. “We’re just looking at the scope at what we have before us, and the challenge to respond,” he said.
The caterpillars emerge in the spring to feast on leaves. European gypsy moths have defoliated hundreds of thousands of acres in the Eastern U.S. and Great Lakes region. Asian gypsy moths aren’t established in the U.S.

WSDA has sprayed 93 times since 1979 to eradicate gypsy moths. Most large applications have been done from the air. The department last spring sprayed 220 acres in rural southwest Washington with Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, commonly referred to as Btk and sold under the name Foray. WSDA had trapped 16 gypsy moths and found an egg mass in the area the previous summer and fall.

WSDA hunted in Capitol Hill for coin-sized egg masses to confirm a reproducing population, but did not find any. WSDA sprayed 725 acres in the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and Magnolia in 2000. A King County judge denied a request by a group of residents to stop the application.

Besides the 21 moths found on Capitol Hill, WSDA has trapped European gypsy moths in Jefferson County, Pierce County, two in Clark County, four in Thurston County and three more in King County. WSDA caught Asian gypsy moths at the Port of Tacoma, Port of Vancouver, Tacoma neighborhood Norpoint, Gig Harbor in Kitsap County, Milton and Fife Heights in Pierce County, Hawks Prairie near Olympia, Nisqually in Thurston County, and two in Kent in King County.

Generally, European gypsy moth eggs are carried into the state overland on outdoor belongings, such as patio furniture. Asian gypsy moth eggs arrive by sea, attached to vessels arriving from ports in Russia, Japan, South Korea and China, where the moths are prevalent. WSDA set out 16,000 traps in Western Washington this summer. The agency concentrated traps near ports and where new residents are likely to move.

The number of gypsy moths trapped in Washington has ranged widely. WSDA trapped a high of 1,315 in 1983 and only one in 2013. The number trapped this summer was the most since 2006.

Article Credit:  Don Jenkins, Capital Press – Oct. 8, 2015