Missouri agencies tracking gypsy moths

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Officials with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with three other government agencies, are collecting information used to track the movement of a different breed of terrorist — the gypsy moth, a tree-eating pest that could potentially strip entire forests throughout the state.

The state's agriculture department, along with the Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Army and Missouri Army National Guard, have begun the annual survey of the insects by placing nearly 12,000 triangular gypsy moth traps on trees throughout Missouri. The traps can be spotted in forest areas until the end of August.

"The gypsy moth continues to be of particular concern to agriculture and conservation officials and poses a significant threat to Missouri forests," said Judy Grundler, director of the Department of Agriculture's Plant Industries Division. "The annual trapping of this pest helps officials determine whether or not a population is attempting to become established in our state. With few enemies, an established gypsy moth population is nearly impossible to eradicate, making prevention critical."

Researchers say the gypsy moth prefers oak trees and that there are approximately 12.5 million acres of oak forest in Missouri alone.

Although most specimens of the pest have been intensively collected in metropolitan and tourist areas due to the higher volume of people and traffic flow, Department of Agriculture encourages the protection and conservation of the acres upon acres of valuable resources throughout Missouri that could be at risk one day to the devastating pest.

According to Collin Wamsley, state entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, "With cuts in federal funding to the Slow the Spread gypsy moth program, the rate at which the gypsy moth moves toward Missouri is expected to more than double. Missouri needs to be extra vigilant to protect this resource that is so important to our forest products industry, tourism and our natural ecosystem."

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