Environmentalists link virus to killing gypsy moths, stopping infestation will take time

Environmental

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Property owners with maple, pine, and oak trees are still seeing their land under attack by an invasive bug, eating them up, but multiple natural and manmade barriers have come up to help the threat die down. 

An invasive species has homeowners around the Rochester Metro on alert. The gypsy moths are taking over many trees, which could be the difference between them dying out. But a virus is coming along that could push back their population.  

Since first reporting, an outbreak of gypsy moths on her maple tree sue McCarthy has seen their impact spread to every leaf little sighting is left of the caterpillar culprit due to the NPV Virus. 

“My understanding is that it is really the only known predator in North America is this virus,” Sue McCarthy of Irondequoit told us. “It is not like any other bugs are going to go after them, so I am happy to hear the virus has come out.” 

Before this species forms into a moth, it hatches in caterpillar form, producing a virus called NPV if populations surge out of control and spread easily.  

“They do not usually come up very quickly in the first year of an outbreak,” Rob Cole of the Environmental Conservation said in a Facebook Live in June. “So you must let that build for a couple of years. What we end up with is a 2–3 year infestation before the population builds up and really knocks it back.”  

While the NPV virus will take some time to set back infestations landowners can apply for aerial spray applications and get contractors to unleash an insecticide known as BTK to kill the caterpillars alongside the virus. 

“They sprayed the tree twice,” McCarthy said. “They did say you want to wait until they are ready to hatch then you want to spray the tree. We caught it close but as you can see, they have been out eating it so we should have done it a little sooner.” 

As the gypsy moths hatch into their caterpillar stage sticky roll material can also be placed around trees and any surface they crawl to prevent infestations.  

The Department of Environmental Conservation urges everybody to not touch these bugs either because it could cause some harm to your skin.

The fungus known as entomophagy mamaliga is also a natural predator to killing off gypsy moths but due to drier springs than usual, not as many fungi have survived the weather elements to make a difference. 

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