It's a plane! Gypsy moth spraying begins Monday - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

It's a plane! Gypsy moth spraying begins Monday

By Jeff Angileri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) -- The fight against invasive species is about to get louder and more noticeable.

Starting Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is getting ready to spray a pesticide to kill gypsy moths in 11 counties -- including Dane, Rock and Sauk counties.

The tiny insects are causing huge problems for Wisconsin's trees.

"It's a defoliant -- strips leaves bear by mid-summer, causes stress to the trees, allows other insects to infest," said Mark Guthmiller, DNR forestry health specialist. "Gypsy moths can cause trees to die."

Gypsy moths were imported to the U.S. from Europe in 1869. They were found in Wisconsin in 1971, and since then, have destroyed more than 1 million acres of trees per year nationwide.

"Basically the eastern half of Wisconsin is permanently established with gypsy moths," Guthmiller said.

Guthmiller said preventing the insects' westward spread is a top priority -- a battle about to take to the skies.

Pilots will begin spraying a pesticide in Dane, Rock and Sauk counties, coating trees in dozens of neighborhoods, and two state parks.

The DNR says the pesticide is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that attacks gypsy moth caterpillars. They say it's not harmful to people, but it can be sticky. You can avoid exposure by staying inside for 15 minutes during, and after spraying.

"When we are treating, expect these planes to be loud, and flying low -- about 50 to 100 feet from the treetops," Guthmiller said. "They'll be in the air as early as 5 a.m."

The DNR say the aerial spraying will only prevent the spread of an invasive and destructive insect.

"We're not going to eradicate the gypsy moth," Guthmiller said. "We're trying to reduce the level of damage."

The DNR says the pesticide is safe for pets, bees, wild animals, and organic gardens.

Gypsy moths can also be spread thru firewood. The DNR asks that you burn firewood in the same area you found it, and don't transport it across the state.

If you have questions, you can call the gypsy moth hotline, at 1-800-642-6684.

For maps, and spraying schedules, go to the DNR's gypsy moth web site.

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