Waiting for the stomachache

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:46

Pike County - The spraying is over and officials are now waiting for the soft patter of caterpillars, falling dead from the trees with fatal holes their guts. That’s what supposed to happen anyway. The biological control spray Bt is in fact a pest of a pest, which, when digested by a young gypsy moth caterpillar, will bore holes in its digestive tract and kill it. It won’t get them all, but the spray is supposed to limit damage to Pike’s trees, said Spraying Coordinator Jessica Yoder, of the Pike County Conservation District. “The spraying isn’t to eradicate, only suppress,” she said. The spray is said to only impact small caterpillars. For the first time since the 1990’s, the county got involved in gypsy moth spraying this spring. Pike opted into a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources program, which mapped infested areas. The result was the aerial spraying of 31,614 acres of private residential property. Property owners anted up $379,000 for the spraying which was matched by twice that amount in state and federal funds. Another 22,064 acres of state and federal land were also treated. That translates to spraying about 15 percent of Pike’s total acreage. A big job, Yoder admitted. Larger tract owners, hunting clubs and private land without homes were not eligible for the program. While some areas had to be resprayed, state authorities believed the weather cooperated for the most part and the spray application was successful, Yoder said. Despite that, Yoder said, it’s likely that there will be another program next spring. Growth in gypsy moth population increases tend to run in cycles and need to be controlled for several years to crash the cycle. No decisions will be made until officials determine how big the remnant is surviving this season. For more information on gypsy moths, visit www.pikeconservation.org .