Concern for gypsy moths, focus of the upcoming meeting news


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CADILLAC – Wexford County residents have been attending committee meetings for the past few weeks to discuss their concerns about a caterpillar.

Most recently, Haring Township resident Craig Delaney spoke about the Gypsy Moth during public commentary at the Wexford County’s Board of Commissioners meeting on July 7th. In particular, Delaney wanted to know what the plan was to alleviate the caterpillar-related issues over the next year.

Delaney said he wasn’t sure if the county, the Department of Natural Resources, or any other government agency was the person to get information from, but he hoped something would be done and there would be “a game plan for spring “give.

While commissioners do not usually address those who speak during a public comment, Commissioner Mike Bengelink said a meeting was scheduled for July 21st to discuss the issue of the gypsy moth. The topic of the meeting is not possible solutions, but facts about the gypsy moth.

At that meeting, Bengelink said a millage passed by Bay County voters will serve as the starting point for discussion of a possible millage in Wexford County. It should be noted that an amount to pay for treatments against the gypsy moth has not been discussed, nor is it planned on the ballot papers in upcoming elections in Wexford County.

While Delaney and others who made comments at board meetings cited an earlier treatment program, Bengelink said it came through a grant program from the DNR, but that funding was no longer available. He also said Vicki Sawicki, the North Country Cooperative’s Invasive Species Management Areas coordinator, recommends the county not to receive any treatments.

Speaking at a meeting of commissioners in June, Sawicki said that although the damage the caterpillars have caused looks terrible, if the trees are healthy they should be defoliated before the summer season ends. However, if the gypsy moth caterpillars attacked a conifer, Sawicki said, it could lead to the death of the tree.

When a tree is sickly or weakened, Sawicki says, they are prone to all sorts of things and if it isn’t the gypsy moth, another insect or fungus will be its doom. She also said that older trees, even if they are “healthy”, can be prone to things like a gypsy moth.

Last month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development released information about the gypsy moth and its caterpillars.

In heavily infested areas, the caterpillars can be heard chewing and round grass pellets or litter rain down day and night. Oaks, aspens, willows and other host trees can be almost leafless or defoliated as a result of their feeding.

The hairy, yellow-faced caterpillars with red and blue spots on their backs can be found on buildings, vehicles, equipment or anything that has been outside for a long time.

Widespread invasive gypsy moth outbreaks became apparent in Michigan in the mid-1980s. Suppression programs in the 1990s and 2000s introduced predators, parasitoids, and a fungal disease called Entomophaga maimaiga to help the naturally occurring nucleopolyhedrosis virus control populations.

NPV and the fungal disease have important benefits – they are specific to gypsy moth populations and do not affect humans, pets, or beneficial insects such as pollinators or insectivores. In addition, they remain in the environment and continue to help control gypsy moth populations every year. The fungal disease spreads best in moist springs, so this year’s drought may have slowed its activity.

These suppression efforts have largely kept gypsy moth populations in check since the 1990s, and naturalized gypsy moth infestations in Michigan’s forests. Today, gypsy moth outbreaks are cyclical, peaking about every seven to ten years. During these years, the virus and fungal disease are more easily spread through dense populations and eventually cause a crash.

The gypsy moth meeting is scheduled for July 21st at 2 p.m. in the Commissioners’ room on the third floor of the Wexford County Courthouse, 437 E. Division St. The meeting is public.

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About Ellen Lewandowski

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