- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Department of Lands’ annual gypsy moth detection trapping effort is underway, and walkers and bicyclists may notice the occasional small beige-colored triangular boxes hanging in selected trees around the area.

North Idaho currently has no gypsy moth problem and state experts want to keep it that way.

Coeur d’Alene is a Category 1 risk area, according to the 2013 Gypsy Moth Program Report by the IDL. The detection traps are just part of a monitoring effort and should be left undisturbed for collection by officials in September.

“I think the reason we don’t have a problem is because we’re doing the right thing in monitoring,” said entomologist Gina Davis, who manages the Forest Health and Stewardship Program at the Idaho Department of Lands.

If a small population of moths became evident, the data collected would allow officials to evaluate and eliminate the population before it became a problem.

During the 2013 survey and treatment program, 394 traps were placed around Kootenai County with more in other Idaho counties. The statewide program cost $110,205 and was funded by IDL in partnership with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last year, a single European gypsy moth was trapped, in the French Gulch area south of Kingston. In earlier years back to 1990, traps yielded only single-digit or no insects found.

“We don’t know how it got (to Idaho),” said Davis. “We suspect it was human-aided because moths cannot fly long distances.”

In 1988, Idaho had a spike in the gypsy moth population when 422 insects were found. Officials were able to eradicate the problem with a spraying operation. Such remedy, however can also kill harmless native moths and butterflies, so prevention is key.

The gypsy moth plagues the northeastern United States, the northern lake states and parts of the southeast, where it is a major defoliator of hardwood trees.

The primary mode of transportation for the exotic insect is outdoor equipment and camping vehicles, on which an attached and undetected cocoon or egg mass can hitchhike.

The gypsy moth is native to Europe and Asia, and was introduced to the United States in 1869 when a French amateur entomologist transported eggs to Massachusetts.

Coeur d’Alene, because of its natural beauty and myriad opportunities for outdoor recreation, continues its growth as a destination for in-movers from other states as well as vacationers who arrive in camping vehicles. Many bring their outdoor furniture and sports equipment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has identified the movement of “outdoor household articles” to be the predominate means for transporting the gypsy moth.

There are several things travelers can do to minimize the problems caused when an exotic species is transported to a non-native area.

Good detection and prevention habits should ideally be practiced by all interstate travelers, said Davis, who said it is essential for travelers to check their vehicles and equipment before getting on the road.

There is also much that conscientious Idahoans can do to minimize transmitting pests from this region to other areas. One insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, a small aphid-like insect is native to Idaho but not the east, where it is decimating eastern hemlock trees. Campers who transport firewood from the Northwest can be vectors for transmission.

While gypsy moths are transmitted on outdoor equipment and wood, there are other pests that travel on wood, specifically beetles.

Davis said a good general practice is to keep firewood local and to burn wood within 50 miles of where it is harvested. If campers insist on traveling with wood, the bark should be removed and the wood split, at the very least. Reducing the moisture content of the wood can make it a less hospitable host.

Davis said any gypsy moth egg mass or cocoon that is found can be scraped off with a tool or a credit card and discarded in ordinary trash using common-sense safety precautions.

While campers may want to travel with a supply of wood to save money, it may not work out that way.

“The more your vehicle weighs, the more fuel it consumes, so it makes sense to lighten the load,” said Jennifer Cook, a spokeswoman for AAA Washington. She added that any materials stored outside a vehicle, such as trailers, will reduce fuel efficiency by making it less aerodynamic and creating more wind resistance.

The value of Idaho’s agricultural production is around $4 billion annually, according to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

Residents of North Idaho may transport non-native pests back to the state when returning from camping trips to other states, so surveying your gear is important.


Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, https://www.cdapress.com

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