Federal and state wildlife officials will spray treatments over parts of Southwest Virginia to control the spread of spongy moths, formerly known as gypsy moths.
A release from the U.S. Forest Service states the service and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service plan to spray the “reproduction disrupting pheromone” in parts of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The affected areas will “include 3,219 acres at Konnarock in Grayson County and 6,884 acres at Whitetop Mountain in Smyth County.”
According to the forest service, the spray affects the spongy moths only and poses a “very low risk” to people and other wildlife.
In order to disperse the treatment, aircraft will fly at low elevations during acceptable weather conditions. The forest service stated that if the weather remains favorable, all treatments could be completed during the week of June 12.
The areas are being sprayed as part of a national program entitled “Slow the Spread,” which aims to benefit the country’s oak-dominated forests. Spongy moths are considered a threat to forests due to their intense hunger as caterpillars.
Spongy moth caterpillars can quickly consume the foliage of a tree, substantially weakening or even killing it. Oak forests are especially susceptible to spongy moth threats since oak leaves are a favorite food of the caterpillars.
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, which houses the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, is an oak-dominated forest.
Similar measures were taken in Johnson County, Tennessee in March by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.