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New Jersey Battling Gypsy Moths

Tree-destroying gypsy moths defoliated 125,000 acres in New Jersey in 2006.

More than 70 municipalities in New Jersey will require aerial spraying this upcoming May with the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis, to combat a resurgence of millions of tree-destroying gypsy moths that defoliated 125,000 acres statewide in 2006.

“It’s going to be big,” said Joseph Zoltowski, chief of the state Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Pest and Disease Control. “We are seeing more and more infestations all over and in places we hadn’t seen them before.”

Zoltowski said that it will be especially bad in 2007 if the region has a dry spring. Wet weather in the spring month leads entomophaga maimaiga, a Japanese fungus and enemy of the gypsy moth, to spur a regional collapse of the moth population. But even so, fungus development will have a greater impact on the 2008 moth population than the one in 2007, Zoltowski said.

Mercer County may not escape the scourge this year. Large sections of the Princetons, Hamilton and West Windsor are at risk, as untold numbers of larvae are expected to hatch into leaf munching caterpillars without intervention by pest control measures or the gypsy moth’s own natural nemesis, the Japanese fungus. Oak trees, maples, beeches, even evergreens and lawn grass face peril.

Most towns in Mercer County facing serious defoliation have yet to decide on a solution, though Princeton Township opted this week for an aerial spraying program recommended by the agriculture department.

Gypsy moth infestations are indicated by half-dollar-sized egg masses located on the underside of branches and on tree trunks, particularly oak trees. Zoltowski said that on average, 400 caterpillars emerge from each egg mass.

“If a tree is defoliated more than once it seriously sets it back and eventually it could kill the tree,” said Mercer County horticulturist Barbara Bromley.


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June 16, 2019, 10:34 pm PDT

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