Gypsy Moth Treatments Begin in Western NC

— Written By

This month, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Gypsy Moth Program is beginning gypsy moth treatments at sites within Surry, Buncombe, Yancey, and McDowell Counties. The four areas targeted for treatment include:

  • 2,080-acre block near the Lamsburg community in Surry County (as early as June 3)
  • 1,760-acre block around Mount Mitchell in both Yancey and Buncombe counties (as early as June 14)
  • 2,845-acre block near the Celo community in Yancey County (as early as June 14)
  • 1,330-acre block near Marion in McDowell County (as early as June 14)

To treat these areas, low-altitude fixed-wing aircraft will disperse gypsy moth pheromone via a product called SPLAT Gypsy Moth-Organic. This inundates the area with the pheromone, resulting in the male gypsy moths being unable to detect pheromones released by the females. This decreases mating success and subsequently reduces gypsy moth populations the following spring. Pheromones are chemical communication signals that are species-specific; therefore, the treatment is not harmful to humans, animals, or plants, and it will not affect other insect species.

an airplane flies low over a forest, releasing pheromone

In a management tactic called “mating disruption”, aircraft disperses gypsy moth pheromone, making it challenging for male and female moths to find each other, reducing mating and thus caterpillar hatch the following year. Image: B. McNee, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources,

In addition to these four sites, in mid-April, a treatment was conducted in Buxton (Dare County) that targeted gyspy moth caterpillars.

a gypsy moth caterpillar perches on a leaf

The gypsy moth caterpillar is hairy with 5 rows of paired blue dots followed by 6 rows of paired red dots along its back. They feed on the foliage of over 300 species of trees and shrubs. Image: Jon Yuschock, Bugwood.

The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is a non-native invasive insect that feeds on the leaves of over 300 different species of trees and shrubs, predominantly oaks and other hardwoods. Heavily infested trees may be completely defoliated, leaving yard trees and entire forests more susceptible to attacks from other pests. Severe infestations that occur year after year often lead to tree death. Gypsy moth caterpillars can also pose public health concerns for people with respiratory problems. In areas with high-density gypsy moth populations, the caterpillar hairs and droppings may cause severe allergic reactions.

Native to Europe, the gypsy moth was introduced near Boston, MA in the 1860s and has been a problem in eastern hardwood forests since. NCDA&CS has addressed spot introductions of the gypsy moth across North Carolina since the 1970s.

For more information, or to request treatment notification via text or email, visit the NCDA&CS Gypsy Moth website or contact NCDA&CS toll-free at 800-206-9333. Updates, including spray start dates, will also be posted on Twitter at @NCAgriculture.

Written By

Kelly Oten, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionDr. Kelly OtenAssistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Forest Health Call Dr. Kelly Email Dr. Kelly Forestry & Environmental Resources
NC State Extension, NC State University
Posted on Jun 7, 2021
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