A new gypsy moth study is being proposed in Bath and Alleghany Counties
By Patrick Sheridan, District Ranger, James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, in conjunction with Virginia Tech, is proposing a gypsy moth mating disruption study to take place in Bath and Alleghany Counties in 2014. Approximately 1,500 acres would be treated to see if gypsy moth populations can be reduced by the use of artificial pheromones.
Pheromones are chemicals produced by insects that allow them to communicate. Female gypsy moths release a certain pheromone when they are ready to mate. Male gypsy moths follow the pheromone to the source…the female gypsy moth. This study will use a synthetic female pheromone that will be time released and widely distributed in the forest. It is expected that male gypsy moths will be disoriented and less likely to find females, thereby disrupting mating and reducing future gypsy moth populations.
The gypsy moth is an invasive species brought to the United States in the early 1860s from Europe. The pest entered the country in the Boston, Massachusetts area and has steadily been spreading south and west causing mortality in eastern hardwood forests. The first wave of gypsy moth infestation in our area occurred in the early 2000s and has since moved on to Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia. Endemic populations still exist in our area that cause infestations and tree mortality. The gypsy moth feeds on many species of trees, but is especially fond of oak.
The prescribed burn season is off to a slow start as burn days have been hard to come by. A snowy March and damp early April have limited the opportunity to accomplish the 10,895 acres planned for the season. The season typically lasts from March to early May. Our partner, The Nature Conservancy, participates in all of the burns including the 1,200 acre Big Wilson South, which is comprised of both Nature Conservancy and National Forest lands.