Gypsy moths prove menace to Rural Valley
Officials from Armstrong County and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hope to control the area's gypsy moth population, after seeing signs of the nuisance insect in Rural Valley.
Timothy Frontz, forest health specialist with the DCNR, said state officials noticed several areas in Rural Valley where tree leaves had been eaten and damaged by the parasitic insect.
“We saw significant egg masses in Rural Valley, but I don't know the extent of the problem countywide,” Frontz said. “But the fact we saw problems there, and at a nearby property, it was indicative there may be other areas in the county where there might be problems.
“The gypsy moths are in a population-building phase.”
The Armstrong County Commissioners contacted the DCNR about participating in its gypsy moth suppression program, which is a cost-sharing program to spray a biological insecticide to keep the gypsy moth population in control, Frontz said.
Gypsy moths tend to target oak, aspen, apple, beech, birch and willow trees, but can latch onto other types of trees, Frontz said.
When its an adult, the gypsy moth can lay between 200 to 1,000 eggs at a time. It does not have many natural predators, with the exception of blue jays, allowing its population to thrive, Frontz added.
It doesn't take a lot of time for the gypsy moth to cause a lot of damage, he added.
“Generally, if trees are of reasonable health or vigor, they can take a year of gypsy moth defoliation without too much trouble,” Frontz said. “But if the population explodes quickly, and if it's coupled with other stress factors like weather, the risk for tree and forest mortality increases significantly.”
Gypsy moths have not been a big problem in Armstrong County since 1990, Vince Cappo of the county's public safety department said.
“In the 1990s, we had an employee who went out into the woods and sprayed throughout the woods with a pump sprayer,” Cappo said. “I don't know if it was indiscriminant spraying, or targeted, but since then, we have had no reported problems, or obvious defoliation.”
Cappo said the county's participation in the gypsy moth suppression program is a preventative step, based upon the DCNR's findings in Rural Valley and predictions.
Residents who believe they have a problem with gypsy moths must make requests for treatment by Aug. 30, and meet several requirements, such as finding at least 250 egg masses per acre and owning at least 23 acres of land, Frontz said.
“This is a long process to make sure properties qualify, and go through the appropriate reviews and assessments,” Frontz said. “It takes a year of planning to get all of it pulled together.”
Anyone interested in participating in the program should contact Cappo at 724-548-3429.
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or email@example.com.