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What's Found In Gypsy Moth Traps Will Determine If State Sprays Pesticide Next Year

Washington Department of Agriculture
Gypsy moth trapper placing one of the traps.

You may have noticed a small green triangular box with an orange label hanging from a tree in your neighborhood. It’s a trap for gypsy moths. As happens every year of late, trappers with the Washington Department of Agriculture are fanning out to place the traps in trees. What they find will determine if the state has to spray for gypsy moths in 2018. Based on what was found in the traps in 2016, no spraying was scheduled for this summer.

Karla Salp, the environmental education specialist with the Washington Department of Agriculture, says there’s reason to be concerned about gypsy moths.  The caterpillers cause serious damage to over five hundred types of trees and shrubs. And the females lay up to one thousand eggs a year.

“And back east they’ve had really bad infestations the past couple of years where they’re permanently established and that’s what we’re trying to prevent here. There the damage has been so great it can be seen from space,” said Salp.

She says there’s nothing to worry about here yet, but the state needs to be vigilant.

A lot of traps are placed in leafy neighborhoods in cities.   Salp says, while gypsy moth traps are set in evergreen trees, the preferred hosts are deciduous trees and those tend to be in abundance in urban environments.

And she says there's another reason to concentrate the traps in cities.

Sometimes, she says,  gypsy moths will hitch a ride with people moving into the area, and more people are moving into the cities than rural areas.

"The gypsy moth will lay its eggs on pretty much any outdoor surface. So, if people pack up a bike or play equipment or patio equipment from an infested area back east, Massachusetts or Connecticut, and they move into our state without having checked those articles they can bring gypsy moths in and then next spring they'll hatch out here in our state," Salp said.

If you see one of the traps in a tree, the Department of Agriculture asks that you leave it alone. Salp also notes that the traps are safe and contain no pesticides. You can sign up for email updates on the state's gypsy moth program at the Washington Department of Agriculture website.