Some residents of Duluth will be seeing a plane fly over their homes Sunday morning. But it’s nothing to be alarmed about. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is using the plane to try and stop the spread of gypsy moths. The MDA is planning to treat about 342 acres in Duluth’s Central Hillside, in an area approximately from North Sixth Avenue East to North 17th Avenue East and Skyline Drive to East Fourth Street.
An infestation of gypsy moth was found last summer in the area. If left unchecked, gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate large sections of forest. The bug likes to munch on over 300 types of trees and shrubs, but oak, poplar, birch and willow are among their preferred meals. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally help them spread by moving firewood or other items on which the moths have laid their eggs.
To slow the expansion of this infestation, officials will conduct two aerial applications of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) over the same area, about 5-10 days apart. Btk is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved bacterium with very low risk for humans or animals. Btk is widely used within the organic gardening community. While some other caterpillars may be affected, they must be at the same development stages as the gypsy moth at the time of the treatment.
This isn’t the first time the North Shore has seen treatments like this one. Similar projects have been carried out in Grand Portage in 2008 and in Finland and Clover Valley in 2009.
If you’d like more information on MDA’s gypsy moth treatment efforts, go to their website. Updates before, during and after the treatments will also be given on MDA’s Facebook page and MDA’s Twitter account. Or, you can call their Arrest the Pest Hotline at 888-545-MOTH. The hotline will have the latest details about treatment dates and times.
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