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DNR Proposes to Scale Back Gypsy Moth Suppression
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 08/29/2014

The success of gypsy moth control efforts over the past decade may open up new opportunities for the private sector as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources considers phasing out its control program and encouraging communities to work with local contractors when scattered infestations appear.

Designed to reduce existing high gypsy moth populations so they don't cause heavy tree defoliation, the DNR Gypsy Moth suppression program is one of two state programs that have been very successful at keeping gypsy moth numbers in check. In recent years, DNR's suppression program has combated gypsy moth infestations throughout the eastern two-thirds of Wisconsin.

Although the DNR is considering phasing out its suppression program, the state's agriculture department will continue a separate initiative that focuses on delaying the spread or introduction of the gypsy moth in the western third of the state. This "Slow the Spread" initiative will continue to use aerial spraying methods as a way to slow down the movement of gypsy moth into new areas.

Andrea Diss-Torrance, a DNR plant pest and disease specialist, said at the peak of its efforts in 2004, the department sprayed some 50,000 acres in Eastern Wisconsin to control the gypsy moth. The invasive pest defoliates trees during its caterpillar stage and can devastate forests and urban landscapes if left unchecked. However, easy methods to detect increasing local populations of the pest, effective biological controls such as the gypsy moth specific fungus Entomophaga maimaiga and targeted pesticides have given Wisconsin foresters and communities the upper hand.

To help in the transition, DNR staff members have already prepared guidance on detecting increasing gypsy moth populations and control options for yards, communities and woodlots including how to set up an aerial spray.

Following Natural Resources Board approval, DNR will move forward to propose options for deactivating the gypsy moth suppression program, including consideration of how to handle potential future outbreaks on state-owned lands. DNR staff members intend to present a plan for public comment and feedback by early December.

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