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Fox Valley residents get lowdown on spraying to fight gypsy moths

Lymantridispar — commonly known as gypsy moth.

Lymantria dispar — commonly known as the gypsy moth.

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Updated: April 22, 2013 11:05AM

State agriculture officials say residents need to do a complete inspection of their homes in the spring for evidence of the gypsy moth, responsible for millions of acres of defoliation each year.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture held a presentation Monday in Montgomery to give residents information on the pest, and steps that are being taken to battle the bug.

The moths are not native to the region and were intentionally brought to the country in 1869 by a scientist. Etienne Leopold Trouvelot wanted to breed a silk moth with a gypsy moth in hopes of creating a lucrative silk market in the United States.

What the scientist did not know at the time is that gypsy moths cannot breed with silk moths, as the two are not in the same insect family. What the scientist created in the end is the destructive gypsy moth.

While the moths can feed on more than 500 different trees and plants, their favorite food is the oak tree. Wooden decks, fences and automobiles can be responsible for bringing them to your home.

Quarantine was designed to keep the moths away but when people camp, move or buy wood materials from different states, the moths can be an added element of the delivery, experts said. Technically, laws are in place that require inspections, but many people are not aware of those laws and don’t call to get the inspection prior to a move.

The state will be conducting an aerial spraying of btk, a chemical that kills the moths when it comes into contact with the leaves, plants or wood that has been sprayed.

The spraying for the moth will be conducted in early May with a second spraying two weeks later. The specific locations in Montgomery, Oswego and all the areas in the Fox Valley are detailed on a map at

“It is a sticky substance but it is not harmful to people or animals,” said Nancy Williams with the Illinois Agriculture Department. “We spray as the sun begins to come up and the winds have to be 10 mph or less. The early time was selected, as many people are not awake before the spraying begins. Even so, ground teams will be in the spray area to make sure no groups of people are out for an early morning jog.

“We just go up to them and say we are spraying, you may want to stay inside,” Williams said.

She also added that the aerial team would stop the spraying if they spot a school bus.

Dayton Leclercq is trying to attract butterflies to her flower garden in Oswego this summer, and attended the forum held to update residents on the spraying.

“I want to know if we spray will it get into the river,” she questioned.

While the area targeted for the spraying is near the Fox River it is not the primary target. Agriculture officials are trying to reach the top leaves of the regions oak trees.

“She is really concerned and wants to know what to do for the butterflies,” asked her mother, Nancy. The teen said the butterflies used to be prominent in her garden but didn’t show up last year and is afraid the spraying may deter them from their habitats.

Other people came asking what the spraying may do to eagles or other native birds in the Fox Valley.

Scott Schirmer with the Agriculture Department said the moths were nearly eradicated many years ago.

“We used DDT and it was pushed all the way back to Boston,” he said of the destructive moths. “I am concerned this year as many of the trees are stressed from the drought.”

The lifespan for the moth is short but happens in four separate stages. Those include egg, caterpillar, cocoon and adult moth. During the summer month’s female moths attach to trees, stones, walls, logs and other outdoor objects.

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