Residents of several west-central Wisconsin counties can expect to see and hear loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise, starting in early to mid-May, when the state crews begin treating for invasive gypsy moth caterpillars.
These counties will have treatment sites: Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Crawford, Dane, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Lafayette, Rusk and Vernon.
Small yellow planes will be treating for the gypsy moth caterpillars, which may defoliate many kinds of trees, causing stress and potentially tree death. The state departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are leading the treatment efforts against the gypsy moth.
“These aerial treatments are the most efficient and effective method to reduce the risk associated with gypsy moth outbreaks,” Christopher Foelker, DATCP gypsy moth program manager, said in a news release. “Where this insect is well established in eastern North America, it has been a periodic public nuisance and damaging forestry pest.”
The gypsy moth has a wide range of harmful effects on local communities. Removing dead trees can cost from several hundred to more than $1,000. In addition, caterpillars shed bristly skins multiple times during spring and summer, and airborne bristles from the cast skins may irritate people’s eyes, skin and respiratory system, and contact with the bristles may cause a rash.
Most sites will be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, or Btk, which is a naturally occurring soil bacteria. It is sprayed across the tree canopy and kills gypsy moth caterpillars eating the leaves. Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals, DATCP indicated, although some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during nearby treatment applications.
People can follow treatment progress on facebook.com/widatcp or on Twitter at #WIgypsymoth.