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MADISON — Residents of many western Wisconsin counties can expect to see and hear loud, low-flying planes as early as sunrise starting in early- to mid-May. Small, yellow planes will be spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars, invasive and destructive pests that feed on the leaves of many species of trees and shrubs.
Spray dates and times are weather dependent. Sign up to receive e-mail notifications about spray plans and view maps of specific spray areas online at gypsymoth.wi.gov. You can listen to a recorded message about our spray plans by calling the toll-free Gypsy Moth Information Line at 1-800-642-6684. Press menu option 1 for updates. Spraying is expected to begin in southern Wisconsin in early May and end in northern Wisconsin in August.
Spraying will be completed by two programs:
• The Slow the Spread Program, conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, focuses its efforts in western Wisconsin where gypsy moth populations are low or just starting to build for the first time. The objective is to slow the westward spread of gypsy moth. This year’s Slow the Spread treatments are planned in the following 21 counties: Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Crawford, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Green, La Crosse, Lafayette, Monroe, Polk, Rock, Richland, Rusk, Sawyer, Trempealeau, Vernon and Washburn.
• The Suppression Program, conducted by the Department of Natural Resources, serves mainly eastern and central Wisconsin where the gypsy moth is well established. In these counties, spraying is done to reduce the number of caterpillars and prevent damage from very high populations. This is a voluntary program that works with landowners and local governments. One suppression treatment is planned this year in Rock County.
Know what to expect
• Timing: Spraying depends on favorable weather conditions — calm winds, no precipitation and high humidity. Planes may start spraying as early as 5 a.m. The planes fly very low and loudly over treatment sites and surrounding areas. Planes will continue spraying until the completion of the day’s spray plans and as long as weather conditions remain favorable. Spraying may last into the late morning or afternoon. Spraying could occur any day of the week, including weekends.
• Spray Treatments: Most sites will be sprayed with Foray, which contains Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk). Btk is a naturally-occurring soil bacteria that kills gypsy moth caterpillars when they ingest it.
Btk is not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals. However, some people with severe allergies may wish to stay indoors during nearby spray activities or avoid areas to be sprayed on the day that spraying occurs.
The formulation of this bacterial insecticide used by the state’s cooperative gypsy moth program is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute as acceptable for use in certified organic food production.
In areas with endangered species of butterflies and moths, a gypsy moth-specific product called ‘Gypchek’ will be used instead of Btk.
The Slow the Spread program will also spray a mating disruptor to additional sites in western Wisconsin between mid-June and mid-August. The pheromone in the mating disruptor makes it difficult for male moths to find female moths in low, isolated populations, preventing reproduction.
For more information about the programs or gypsy moths, visit the website gypsymoth.wi.gov. Or, call the toll-free Gypsy Moth Line at 1-800-642-MOTH (1-800-642-6684) to hear a recording of the programs’ current spray plans or talk to staff.