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Minnesota Department of Agriculture launches 2008 gypsy moth trapping program

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is setting nearly 17,000 gypsy moth traps across the state this month as part of its annual program to monitor Minnesota's forests and urban areas for new infestations by the destructive tree pest.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is setting nearly 17,000 gypsy moth traps across the state this month as part of its annual program to monitor Minnesota's forests and urban areas for new infestations by the destructive tree pest.

Ranked among America's most destructive tree pests, gypsy moths are not native to North America and have no effective natural controls. Since the late 1800s, they have spread west from New England. They are now common in central Wisconsin, and are threatening eastern Minnesota.

Gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate large sections of forest, with oak, poplar, birch and willow trees among their preferred hosts.

Gypsy moth populations spread slowly on their own. Unfortunately, people can accidentally help the pests spread by giving them a free ride to new territory. The moths' egg masses can be deposited on any solid surface, including vehicles, firewood and nursery stock. Minnesotans camping in infested areas such as Wisconsin may unknowingly carry the egg masses home on camping gear, firewood or even the wheel wells of their car. In the spring, the hungry caterpillars hatch and infest any nearby trees.

The MDA's early warning system against the moths is a network of small, tent-shaped traps attached to trees or poles. The cardboard traps contain a pheromone to lure male gypsy moths. Once inside, the moths become entangled in the sticky interior. In the fall, workers remove the traps and count the moths inside. When MDA finds a significant number of moths in an area, it moves in to eradicate them.

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MDA's 2007 monitoring program discovered a large infestation in Cook and Lake counties along Lake Superior. The department will be conducting treatments in those counties this summer.

MDA Commissioner Gene Hugoson said monitoring is a key part of Minnesota's fight against gypsy moths.

"Thanks in part to our trapping program, we've been able to find and eradicate start-up infestations," Commissioner Hugoson said. "By stamping out these early infestations, we delay the full-scale arrival of this pest. Every year we delay its introduction is a win for our environment and our economy. We appreciate the help of landowners in protecting traps from destruction, and we ask homeowners not set their own traps, since this can interfere with our ability to find infestations."

Citizens are asked not to disturb the traps and to call the Arrest the Pest Hotline at 888-545-MOTH if they would like traps moved to or removed from their properties. For more details about the trapping program and gypsy moths, visit the MDA Web site at www.mda.state.mn.us/gypsymoth .

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