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State to begin aerial spraying for gypsy moths

April 22, 2006|By TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

Sometimes, the best way to get rid of a bug is to just zap it.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich announced this week that the state will treat 25,500 acres of land in eight counties, including Washington, for gypsy moth infestation.

Aerial spraying of the affected areas will begin next month, according to Bob Tichenor, chief of forest pest management for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

All affected landowners already have been notified, Tichenor said. The Cooperative Gypsy Moth Suppression Program expects to treat 2,851 acres in Washington County, mainly in the far eastern and far western areas of the county.

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"That's basically where the trees are," Tichenor said.

Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on leaves of oaks and other hardwoods from late April through June, and heavy infestations can kill the trees, according to an Agricultural Department release.

It's been three years since the last major infestation, but department inspectors found last fall that because of the natural cycle of the insect, "we have a fairly widespread infestation and must protect our valuable hardwood forests and neighborhood trees," Ehrlich said in the release.

The worst infestation is in Garrett County, where about half of the acreage will be treated.

Treating for the moths has gone a bit high tech. Tichenor said the program will use helicopters fitted with Global Positioning Systems to pinpoint the areas to be treated. Though landowners have been notified, Tichenor said other residents might notice the helicopters flying over their properties as they position themselves to treat target areas. But they should not worry that their properties will be sprayed, he said.

"We will not come out and spray if they've not been notified," he said.

For information on the program or treatment schedule, call the program information line at 800-492-2105 or visit the department's Web site at www.mda.state.md.us.

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