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Second gypsy moth infestation is discovered in Twin Cities
Joy Powell
Star Tribune

State officials have detected a second recent infestation of the gypsy moth in the metropolitan area and will dramatically boost treatments this year to stave off the pest, which can defoliate entire forests.

The latest infestation is confined to Theodore Wirth Park and golf course over a 1,836-acre area of Golden Valley, St. Louis Park and west Minneapolis, officials said.

In November, the largest moth infestation ever in the state led to a quarantine of 400 acres just south of Lake Harriet. That quarantine bans residents and businesses from removing trees, branches and other woody material from their property until June 15.

The newest area won't be quarantined because it seems to be confined to the park and golf course, said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, gypsy moth coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Officials say the gypsy moth is the nation's single most destructive pest of trees and shrubs. Since state officials began monitoring for the presence of the gypsy moth in the 1970s, they have treated about 1,500 acres in 50 areas to prevent trees from being defoliated.

This year, treatments will cover about 3,000 acres, Thielen Cremers said.

She said the latest infestation indicates a trend that within 10 to 15 years is expected to affect the entire state. Eastern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have been declared infested by the moths, which have spread slowly westward from New England since the turn of the century.

"We just hope to delay that movement," Thielen Cremers said Monday.

"It's not the state coming down and mandating that we're doing this for the public. Without treatment, this infestation will increase, and eventually defoliation will occur. So in June you'll have trees that look like they would in the middle of November, with absolutely no leaves on the trees," she said.

The trees will releaf, but multiple years of defoliation will stress trees, leaving them vulnerable to insects and diseases that can kill them.

The gypsy moths eat up to a square foot of foliage a day, said Ryan Benbo, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department.

The newest infested area extends from the east side of Hwy. 100 to the west side of Xerxes Avenue, and from the south side of Minnaqua Drive to the north side of Highwood Road, Benbo said.

He said residents near the newest infested area will receive letters within 10 days informing them of the situation. They will be invited to a meeting about the moth from 7 to 9 p.m. on Feb. 11 at the Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd., Golden Valley.

Gypsy moth egg masses usually are deposited on trees, houses and lawn ornaments. The female moth, which can't fly, lays 500 to 1,000 eggs per lifetime. They hatch into large caterpillars in the spring.

"The gypsy moth does not spread quickly on its own," Thielen Cremers said. "Unfortunately, people often unwittingly help the moth spread by giving it a free ride into new territory."

For more information, call a gypsy moth hot line at 651-296-6684

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