NCDA&CS to Treat Gypsy Moth Infestation in Parts of Western North Carolina on June 14th

A gypsy moth on a branch.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will soon start treating for gypsy moth infestations in areas of Buncombe and Yancey counties.

Two areas are scheduled for treatment – a 1,760-acre block around Mount Mitchell in both Yancey and Buncombe counties; and a 2,845-acre block near the Celo community in Yancey County. Treatments are expected to start as early as June 14, weather permitting.

Following are descriptions of the treatment areas:

— State Route 197 passes through the center of the two-county block which stretches from Haney Creek Road to Ogle Meadows Road. Hardwood forests containing oak, chestnut, and hickory are present throughout most of the block.There are 76 residences in the area, and a portion of it is Forest Service land. In 2019, a total of three male moths were trapped in this block, with that number increasing to seven in 2020, signifying a reproducing population. One application of mating disruption is planned.

— N.C. Highway 80 passes through the center of the 2,485-acre Yancey County treatment block, which contains oak, chestnut and hickory hardwoods. There are 246 residences. and a portion of this block is Forest Service land. A total of eight male moths were trapped in 2019 in this block. Trapping in 2020 found 28 moths, signifying a reproducing population. One application of mating disruption is planned.

“Treatments are weather dependent, but they are timed to happen prior to normal gypsy moth mating periods,” said Allison Ballantyne, NCDA&CS Gypsy Moth program manager. “If weather conditions are suitable, the planned treatment is expected to take one day.”

Low-altitude fixed-wing aircraft will disperse SPLAT Gypsy Moth-Organic infused with the naturally occurring gypsy moth pheromone.

The presence of the pheromone makes male gypsy moths unable to follow the natural pheromone scent trails released by the females. This causes a decrease in mating success and reduces the gypsy moth population. The pheromone is not harmful to humans, animals or plants, and it will not affect other insect species.

Gypsy moths feed on the leaves of more than 300 different species of trees and shrubs, predominantly oaks and hardwoods. When areas become heavily infested, trees may be completely stripped of foliage, leaving yard trees and entire forests more susceptible to attacks from other pests. Severe infestations often lead to tree death. Gypsy moth caterpillars can also pose public health concerns for people with respiratory problems. In areas with high-density gypsy moth populations, the caterpillar hairs and droppings may cause severe allergic reactions.

NCDA&CS has addressed spot introductions of the gypsy moth across North Carolina since the 1970s. The treatment will be done in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. Homeowners in the treatment areas were notified about these infestations as well as treatment options in January, and public comments from residents in the treatment areas were solicited.

For more information, or to request treatment notification via text or email, go to https://www.ncagr.gov/GypsyMoths/treat or contact NCDA&CS toll free at 800-206-9333. Updates, including spray start dates, will also be posted on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NCAgriculture.

Prepared by NCDA&CS.