Minn. ag department plans 5:30 a.m. flight to attack gypsy moths near Hokah

Gypsy Moth
Adult adult male gypsy moth, left, has feathery antennae, compared with the female's thinner ones. (Minnesota Ag Department photo)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WKBT) — Residents near Hokah in Houston County who hear a low-flying plane around 5:25 a.m. Friday need not fear that something is amiss, but gypsy moths could be doomed.
The flight over Houston County and another over Wabasha County to the north are to strafe the moths’ infestations with Btk (full name: foray/Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki), under the auspices of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
The invasion of the moths, which are native to southern Europe, northern Africa, central and southern Asia and Japan, were detected in those two counties last fall, according to the ag department. The Btk applications Friday will be the first of two in the quest to eradicate one of America’s most destructive tree pests.
The moths have inflicted millions of dollars of damage to Eastern U.S. forests and now are threatening Minnesota, ag officials said.

Gypsy Moth Caterpillar

Gypsy moth caterpillars can strip a forest of all foliage within a short time. (Minnesota Ag Department photo)

If gypsy moth caterpillars are present in large numbers, they can defoliate large sections of forest. Their preferred targets are oak, poplar, birch and willow.
Gypsy moths spread slowly on their own, but people can contribute to their advance unintentionally if they transport firewood or other items on which the moths have laid their eggs.
The second Btk application is to take five to 10 days after the first.
Btk is a biological product that is organic certified for food crops, according to the agriculture department. It has no known health effects for humans, pets, birds, fish, livestock, bees and other non-caterpillar insects.
The ag department apologizes in advance if the plane awakens anyone. The fact that the compound must be spread early levels the playing field for rural and urban residents. A plane is scheduled to buzz a Minneapolis neighborhood at 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
The agency advises that, even though the spray is not harmful to humans, residents might want to stay indoors during the treatment and keep windows closed for a half-hour after application. Residents also can cover gardens or turn on sprinklers during the treatment if they so desire.

Gypsy Moth Eggs

Gypsy moth egg mass.

The residue does not damage outdoor surfaces, and soapy water will remove the residue, according to the agriculture department.
The Houston County treatment area is about 1,620 acres about 1.5 miles west of Hokah. Union Ridge Road runs through the middle of the proposed treatment area.
In Wabasha County, the treatment area is about 1,420 acres roughly 3 miles north of Zumbrota Falls. US Hwy. 63 runs through the middle of the area.
The ag department has set up an Arrest the Pest Info Line at (888) 545-MOTH with the latest details about treatment dates and times. On the morning of the treatments, residents can call the phone with any questions they may have. Press zero to speak to someone.

The ag department’s website also has information about gypsy moths and control efforts, and residents can sign up for email or text updates about treatment progress.