W.Va. Department of Agriculture accepting comments on proposed Spongy Moth treatments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA), in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture-Forest Service (USDA-FS), is proposing aerial treatment of approximately 2,681 acres for the purpose of reducing significant impacts to forested lands within West Virginia caused by the Lymantria dispar (gypsy moth). The WVDA proposes to treat these acres under the WVDA Cooperative State-County-Landowner (CSCL) Suppression Program.

The WVDA is concerned, without treatment, the Lymantria dispar infestations in West Virginia will reach high enough levels to cause defoliation and possible tree mortality. Large numbers of caterpillars are expected in the 2023 treatment area. It is likely many already stressed trees will not be able to withstand an additional heavy defoliation and will die. Water quality, recreation experiences, wildlife habitat, and timber production could all be negatively affected. Excessive mortality will also reduce visual quality.

The young Lymantria dispar caterpillars are spread by the wind, which blows the silken threads they exude, creating a parachute effect. Movement by this mechanism tends to be slow. Man, however, has sped up the process considerably, by unwittingly transporting the pest as eggs or caterpillars on firewood, RVs, campers, and other vehicles. The WVDA cautions against the transport of firewood into or out of the State because pests such as the Lymantria dispar, hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer, spotted lanternfly, and other invasive insects may be in or on the wood. These non-native pests have potentially devastating economic effects. Owners of RVs and campers are asked to thoroughly inspect and wash their equipment before moving it. Even with all of these precautions, the Lymantria dispar has and will continue to spread, leaving site-specific treatments as the only way to prevent population explosions and resulting tree mortality.

The WVDA anticipates the possibility of significant defoliation in 2023 because of an increase in the Lymantria dispar population in areas of Morgan County. The Lymantria dispar fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, though present, did not prevent the deposit of large, healthy, and viable egg masses in 2022.

Landowners, within the CSCL Program area of West Virginia, contacted the WVDA to have their properties surveyed to determine if they contain Lymantria dispar populations in quantities high enough to produce possible tree mortality, defoliation, or a significant nuisance factor in the spring of 2023. Areas with 500 egg masses per acre (em/ac) or higher were designated for possible treatment on properties considered wooded residential, wooded recreational, or non-residential forested land. The areas proposed for treatment were delineated on topographic maps, and a contract, deposit invoice, and signature map of the proposed spray block boundaries were sent to the landowner.

The landowners in the CSCL Program signed a contract with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and paid a deposit confirming the requested treatment for their Lymantria dispar problem. The landowners selected the spray material to be used on their property and verified their property boundaries. The proposed treatment would consist of one application of a specific control agent. These agents are a bacterium known as Foray 48B (Btk), which affects young caterpillars with minimum effects on other insects and animals or Tebufenozide (Mimic), which has a very low toxicity to all mammals and aquatic species.

Approximately 2,681 acres of forest land are proposed for treatment in Morgan County. The WVDA will treat approximately 2,681 acres with either Mimic 2LV or Foray 48B under the CSCL Program. The adjoining map shows the general location of the proposed treatment areas. More detailed maps with specific locations of the proposed treatment areas are available for review at the New Creek office of the WVDA Plant Industries Division. These areas will be treated during May 2023. The specific dates will depend on weather conditions and the stage of development of the Lymantria dispar.

The WVDA has completed consultation with the WV Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Biologist concerning the presence of any presence of rare, threatened, or endangered species (RTE) within the proposed treatment area. No impact to RTE species is anticipated. The WVDA is in the final stage of consultation with the United States Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service concerning RTE species.

The WVDA will immediately begin solicitation of public comment on the areas proposed for treatment to reduce the devastating effect on West Virginia’s Forest by the Lymantria dispar. The WVDA will use this input to identify any significant issues related to the proposed project and to develop a range of alternatives. Any comments, concerns, or interest in this proposed project should be submitted in writing to Quentin “Butch” Sayers, Assistant Director or G. Scott Hoffman, GMCS Coordinator, P.O. Box 9, New Creek, WV 26743 or via e-mail to ghoffman@wvda.us no later than April 1, 2023. 

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