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Md. doubles efforts against gypsy moths

About 17,000 acres of land sprayed in Washington County

About 17,000 acres of land sprayed in Washington County

May 16, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Maryland has doubled its efforts in the war on gypsy moths this spring, spraying twice as much forest land as it did last year to ward off the destructive caterpillar.

In Washington County, about 17,000 acres have been sprayed - more than double the 7,000 acres that were treated here last year, said Julianne A. Oberg, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Across the state, sprayers will hit almost 100,000 acres in 13 counties this spring with aerial insecticides.

"It's cyclical, how the moths go," Oberg said. "We've had two really bad years."

Gypsy moths can destroy thousands of acres of hardwood trees after their yearly hatch in the early spring.

Oberg said the state saw a huge upswing in the gypsy moth population last year because of an unusually dry spring.

She said wet weather in the spring creates a fungus that kills off much of the gypsy moth population.

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The gypsy moth infestation in Maryland is worse this year than it has been since 1994, Oberg said. That year, the state sprayed 96,000 acres.

About 170,000 acres are eligible for spraying this year, Oberg said, but funding restraints allow the state to spray only 100,000 acres.

In total, the state budgeted $4.1 million for gypsy moth spraying this year. Last year, $2.75 million was budgeted, Oberg said.

Those amounts include local and federal contributions.

Locally, the state sprayed public and private lands near Hancock, Clear Spring and Smithsburg this year, as well as a strip of land along the eastern edge of the county.

The state finished up spraying in Washington County on Thursday, Oberg said.

Washington County is paying one-third of the cost of this year's spraying, which totaled about $336,000, Oberg said.

The county agreed to pay $112,000 this year and has budgeted $100,000 for next year, up significantly from the $40,000 that had been budgeted.

According to the Department of Agriculture's Web site, the gypsy moth is native to Europe and Asia.

It was brought to North America in 1868 or 1869, when an entomologist tried to create a disease-resistant species of silkworm. But the experiment failed and some of the larvae escaped, spreading through much of the United States and Canada.

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