PILOT MOUNTAIN — Information on gypsy moth infestation and treatment alternatives will be discussed at a public meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Armfield Civic Center here.
An infestation of gypsy moths was detected in the Pilot Mountain area in 2016 and 2017, resulting in a planned mating disruption of the moths by a state agency.
The Consumer Services Plant Industry Division, part of the N.C. Department of Agriculture, has scheduled the meeting and will accept input from the public through questions and public comment.
“Male moth trapping data indicates a reproducing gypsy moth population is present within the block. In 2016, as many as 11 male moths were captured per trap in the block. In 2017, as many as 8 moths were caught, indicating a persisting population. One application of mating disruption is proposed for this block,” the agency stated.
“No decision will be made on the treatment alternatives for this infestation until residents of the area have had an opportunity to express their comments through this public meeting,” according to the statement.
The gypsy moth – a defoliator of hardwood trees whose impact ranges from barely noticeable to devastating – earned its name due to its tremendous mobility. The moth is not native to the U.S. but escaped from a laboratory in Medford, Massachusetts, in 1869, where attempts were being made to cross it with native silkworm moths. Since that time, the insect has spread throughout the northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. and into Canada.
Several days after hatching, young caterpillars hang from tree limbs by silk threads that allow them to be carried aloft by wind currents and spread to other areas. Although the gypsy moth can spread relatively short distances on its own, it is also inadvertently transported by humans. Human-assisted movement occurs when humans unknowingly transport egg masses which can contain as many as 1,000 viable eggs.
For hardwood species in fair or poor health, or those stressed by drought or frost, death can result after two consecutive years of defoliation. Trees that are in good condition will grow new leaves later in the season but they use food reserves that were intended for the next season, making them susceptible to other stress or future infestation.
The most dangerous effect of this defoliation is an increase in susceptibility to secondary pests such as wood-boring beetles and fungi. Older gypsy moth larvae may attack conifer species, such as pines, resulting in tree mortality after just one year of defoliation.
Homeowners can find their yards filled with a number of large, dead trees that must be removed at a serious economic burden, and timberland owners may be faced with a reduction in timber value as popular hardwoods are killed.
The 21,755-acre Pilot Mountain/Ararat proposed treatment block extends just north and west of the town and includes portions of the Longhill and Ararat communities.
U.S. 52 bisects the block north to south. Portions of Ararat Road and Old Westfield Road pass through the block as well. Ararat River, Flat Shoal Creek, Toms Creek, Chinquapin Creek, Bull Creek, and Whittier Creek all pass through this block, along with several small streams and ponds. The area is mixed rural farmland and wooded areas. Forest composition is mixed, with oak, hickory, pine, sycamore, birch, and other species. There are an estimated 3,398 houses and other structures in the block.
Armfield Civic Center, 873 W U.S. 52 Bypass, Pilot Mountain, NC 27041, will be the site of the 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. All members of the public are encouraged to attend. If you are not able to attend the meeting and you would like additional information on this gypsy moth infestation, please contact the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division at 800-206 -9333 or 919-707-3730. Resources are also online at the NCDA&CS web site: www.ncagr.gov.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.