TITUSVILLE – Gypsy moth caterpillars are some of the state’s most destructive pests. Relentless chewing machines, they devour vegetation, weakening trees and leaving them susceptible to disease and other insects. After a three-year period of very few moths in Northwest Pennsylvania, the pests returned in full force this spring, and while Cameron, Clarion, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, Potter and Tioga counties were sprayed for the moths this year, Crawford County was not.
It left many residents exposed, especially near Titusville and in the eastern part of the county. Lynn Sanderson of the Crawford County Conservation District on Wednesday approached the board of county commissioners about the issue. The commissioners agreed to sign a letter that would enable Crawford County to sign up for the state spraying program in 2014, if moth numbers are expected to be high again.
And commissioner chairman Francis Weiderspahn says the only way to predict that is to check trees for eggs.
“The time you really need to inspect is in the fall, when you can find their egg mass,which is a little brown cocoon about a half inch to 5/8ths of an inch wide, where they lay their eggs. That will give you an idea if there’s going to be a problem next year. They’ll check for that in about August or September, for those egg masses, and then we’ll make a determination whether we want to participate as a county in that program.”
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says trees begin to suffer when they’ve lost 30% or more of their foliage, but the real damage happens when trees are exposed two years in a row.
“They really love oak trees, white oak in particular, but any oak. They will go for the maples, but if you have oak trees in your forests, in your yards, or in your small woodlots, I would encourage you to go out and do an inspection to see if there is any damage. A tree can withstand defoliation for one season, but if it happens a second season, it can very possibly kill the tree.”
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