Monday, February 29, 2016

Come One, Come All

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Randy Taylor shows 2015 trapping results
WSDA’s team of gypsy moth experts has been trekking around the state holding gypsy moth “Ask the Expert” open houses, and we still have three more open houses if you haven’t gone yet!

At the open houses, you can get all of your questions answered about WSDA’s proposed gypsy moth treatments for the spring of 2016. You have the opportunity to speak with people like Dr. Jim Marra, the Pest Program manager for the WSDA. But we also have trappers and others involved in the gypsy moth program who can answer your questions.
Dr. Jim Marra speaks with the local health department

In addition to WSDA staff, the Department of Health is available at most open houses. They are answering questions about Btk and your health.

Finally, don’t miss the chance to watch WSDA’s newest gypsy moth video. It’s only 10 minutes long and gives you tons of information about why gypsy moth is such a bad pest.
Learn fun facts like how much caterpillars eat

If you haven’t gone, we invite you to step right up to one of the three final gypsy moth open houses for 2016:
  • March 1 – Vancouver
  • March 3 – Olympia
  • March 10 – Tacoma
And if you aren’t able to make it to a live gypsy moth open house, you can always watch a recording of our virtual open house held in February!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Love is in the air - literally

Karla Salp
Pest Program

Male & Female Gypsy Moths - Photo by Vladimir Petko, V.N. Sukachev Institute of Forest SB RAS,
Male & Female Gypsy Moths
I wish I could take credit for the idea for this blog, but it was actually inspired by an article that arrived in my inbox, written by Todd Whitcombe. His article describes the chemistry of attraction in animals – and he used the gypsy moth as an example. Being that it is Valentine’s Day, I just couldn’t resist talking about l’amour for the not-so-beloved gypsy moths.

Reading the article taught me a few new things about gypsy moths and their mating practices. For example, did you know:
  • The female gypsy moth uses a compound called bombykol as its sex attractant
  • She releases this compound into the air when she is ready to mate
  • The male gypsy moth can detect as little as one molecule of bombykol in the air 
  • The male gypsy moth has been known to follow a female from as far as 5 miles away
    • In human terms, this would be the equivalent of walking 500 miles
Coupling gypsy moths - Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources - Forestry ,
Coupling gypsy moths
The ability of the male gypsy moth to find the female gypsy moth to reproduce is nothing short of amazing. This heightened skill, however, is also one of the reasons why they are such a problem.

When you factor in that a female moth can lay up to 1,000 eggs, it is easy to see how just a couple of moths can rapidly grow to populations that will devastate forests and the environment.

The ability to effectively and rapidly reproduce is just one of the reasons why it is critical that Washington eradicate gypsy moths when they are detected. Visit our website to learn more about WSDA’s gypsy moth trapping and control efforts, and consider attending one of our upcoming open houses for more information!

Monday, February 8, 2016

8 Reasons to Attend a Gypsy Moth Open House

Karla Salp
WSDA Pest Program

If you have heard about our proposed gypsy moth treatments – which include applying a biological insecticide over some residential areas – you are bound to have questions and possibly some concerns.

That is why the Department of Agriculture is holding seven open houses over the next month and making our experts, and some from other agencies, available to answer your questions and address your concerns about the treatments proposed for this spring.

Why Attend an Open House


Here are 8 reasons why you should attend an open house:

  1. Ask the Experts – We will have local gypsy moth experts available to answer your questions about gypsy moths, the proposed treatment, and the treatment product.
  2. Educate Yourself – We’ll have several stations where you can learn about various aspects of the project.
  3. Don’t Be Surprised – Treatments will involve early morning helicopters flying over residential areas. Find out what to expect so you are prepared. 
  4. Watch It – Take a few minutes to watch WSDA’s brand new video about the gypsy moth to appreciate why it is such terrible pest.
  5. Stay in the Know – You’ll have the opportunity to sign up for e-mail, text, or phone alerts about gypsy moth treatments. 
  6. Share Your Concerns – Talk to WSDA staff about any concerns you have regarding the treatment.
  7. Multiple Options – Attend a virtual open house online or one that is in your neighborhood.
  8. Share the Knowledge – Take some of our handouts and help educate your neighbors and friends by learning the facts about gypsy moth, the threat it poses to our environment, and the need to eradicate this pest.

Save the Date

You have several opportunities to attend an open house:

  • February 16th – Virtual “Ask the Experts” open house webinar – Register online
  • February 17th – Gig Harbor City Hall, 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor
  • February 23rd – Kent Memorial Park, 850 N Central Ave, Kent
  • February 24th – Miller Community Center, 330 19th Ave E, Seattle
  • March 1st – Vancouver Public Library, 901 C Street, Vancouver
  • March 3rd – Olympic View Elementary School, 1330 Horne St NE, Olympia
  • March 10th – Fabulich Center, 3600 Port of Tacoma Road, Tacoma
After attending an open house, you’ll know more about WSDA’s proposed treatment and our plan of action. WSDA believes this proposal is the best choice to protect our environment from gypsy moths while being safe for you, your family and pets. Visit our webpage any time for the most recent information on this project.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On the Road with the Gypsy Moth Team

Karla Salp
Pest Program

I entered a strange new world today – the world of monitoring for gypsy moths. Today’s mission: to boldly go where no gypsy moth sterile egg mass had gone before. Don Kitchen, an entomologist with our Pest Program, was captain of this mission and he let me tag along to see what it was all about.
Don holding the sterile egg mass 

An egg mass is just what it sounds like – a fuzzy, mass of gypsy moth eggs that look a lot like piles of brown to cream colored cotton. We use them like a kitchen timer – when the caterpillars on a monitored egg mass begin to emerge, it’s a good sign that egg masses we haven’t found are also starting to hatch.

On a gray, rainy day, we drove south to Vancouver, where Don stopped to scope out potential locations, looking for one that was easy to reach but hidden from passersby.  

Hidden but Accessible

Stapling egg mass to a tree
Sterile egg mass on tree
After finding an ideal spot, Don stapled the egg mass to the tree.  Ease of access is important as Don will visit the sterile egg mass every three weeks. He’ll watch for signs that it is swelling – an indication that the eggs are almost ready to hatch. When this happens it is time to start treating the area for gypsy moth.

Egg mass monitoring provides the most reliable information about when caterpillars will emerge. An especially warm spring, for example, will result in earlier hatching of the gypsy moth caterpillars and require earlier treatment.

Getting Tangled

After stapling the egg mass to the tree, Don pulls out one of his secret weapons: Tanglefoot.

Tanglefoot is a sticky product that is put around the egg mass. If any newborn caterpillars try to crawl away from the egg mass before it is removed, they get stuck in the surrounding sticky goo. Our goal is to protect Washington from a gypsy moth infestation, so we don’t want any wandering off.

Before Don put the egg mass in place, it was sterilized.  Sterilization provides another assurance that should caterpillars miraculously escape even the sticky trap, they won’t be able to reproduce.

GPS for Gypsy Moth

Don logging the egg mass location
Once the sticky trap is set, Don records the egg mass location. A GPS app on his cell phone allows him to map it. The app feeds back into an extensive mapping program that the Pest Program maintains. Not only do they track egg masses, but later in the year they also track where they place thousands of traps around the state and where gypsy moths are detected.

With the egg mass placed and logged, it was time to pack up and head home. Now we'll wait to see how that egg mass develops and when it signals to the world that, "The caterpillars are coming!"

Don’t forget to visit to learn more about this pest and our efforts to keep it out of Washington State.