State wants to spray Keyport area for gypsy moths

European gypsy moths might be the target of  a chemical spray next spring. - Courtesy photo
European gypsy moths might be the target of a chemical spray next spring.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The state might be saddling up for another go-round with the aggressive European gypsy moth. The Washington State Department of Agriculture is proposing to spray for the gypsy moth on a 200-acre site near Keyport that includes the Evergreen Ridge housing development. The proposal is dependent on public input.

The department will do an environmental impact assessment on the proposal prior to its release to the public. In addition, it plans to have an open house in the area sometime in February to answer questions from the general public.

The dates of the sprayings have not yet been set. Because the area is so large, a crop duster will have to be used to disperse a pesticide spray. There will be three to five applications anywhere from three to 14 days apart.

The Agriculture Department plans to spray Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki (Bkt), a natural chemical that is commonly found in decaying soil and is commonly used in home gardens for pest control, according to Jim Marra, a state entomologist.

Experts will then monitor the egg nests of the gypsy moths to determine when the spraying would be the most effective. The pesticide kills the insects when they are in the caterpillar stage, Marra said. The caterpillars eat the Btk which causes a fatal infection.

The state has done 79 gypsy moth eradications since 1980, although Btk was not used in all of them, Marra said.

There are no side effects of Btk for humans or animals, he said. Once it is sprayed, its residue lasts on the foilage for a few days and dissipates when it comes in contact with direct sunlight, which is why multiple applications are needed.

The gypsy moth is considered to be one of the worst forest pest insects in the United States, according to information from the Agriculture Department. It attacks more than 500 types of trees and shrubs and causes millions of dollars of environmental and economic damage every year.

Marra said that in general, the public supports the use of Btk to get rid of gypsy moths. Last year, Btk was sprayed in

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