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Photo of a gypsy moth caterpillar - Click to enlarge
No Spray Program Planned for 2010
For Immediate Release: January 28, 2010
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) – After surveying 147 municipalities throughout the state from mid-August to mid-January, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture found one small area that qualifies for the state’s Aerial Gypsy Moth Suppression Program for 2010.

“The combination of effective treatments in spring of 2009, the impacts of predatory parasites and increased natural fungus that kills gypsy moth caterpillars has caused a dramatic decline in the gypsy moth population,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  “However, the gypsy moth has not been eradicated from the state.  We found some isolated scattered pockets as a result of our surveys, therefore, continued monitoring is necessary to suppress the tree-killing insect in the future.”

The gypsy moth egg mass survey produced only one small area in the state with a large enough gypsy moth population to qualify for the state spray program -- a 99-acre block in Mullica Township, Atlantic County. To qualify for the spray program, a residential or recreational forest must have an average of more than 500 egg masses per acre and be at least 50 acres in size. Municipal participation in the aerial spray program is voluntary.

The 2009 Gypsy Moth Aerial Spray program included 15 counties, 55 municipalities and 11 agencies with spraying on 35,816 acres of wooded residential and park land, wooded areas along the Garden State Parkway and areas of Earle Naval Weapons Station.

Last year, the Department’s annual gypsy moth aerial defoliation survey showed 91,890 acres of trees in 184 municipalities in 19 counties experienced some level of leaf loss in the state.  That compared with 339,240 acres in 2008.  It was the first decrease since 2003.  Each year, since 1970, gypsy moth caterpillars have caused varying degrees of defoliation -- between 1,910 and 800,000 acres of forested land. 

Two to three consecutive years of significant defoliation (defined as 75 percent or more) can kill an otherwise healthy tree. However, any gypsy moth defoliation can make trees more susceptible to other damage that can lead to the death of the tree.   Oak trees are the preferred host for gypsy moths, but the caterpillars can be found feeding on almost any tree in the vicinity.

Neighboring states have seen the same decline in gypsy moth populations as New Jersey.  Pennsylvania and Delaware are not planning spray programs for 2010 and Maryland has proposed treating 500 acres.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will conduct an aerial survey of the state in July to determine the extent of tree damage from gypsy moth caterpillars this year and in what areas to focus egg mass surveys next fall.