Few gypsy moths found in Northwest

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Normally a low score isn't a cause for celebration. But sometimes the exception proves the rule.

In this case, the good news came from the number of gypsy moths caught this year by traps in Washington and Oregon.

For the fifth time this decade, the number of gypsy moths annually trapped in Oregon was in single digits, said Helmuth Rogg of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Only six gypsy moths were found this year in Portland, Aurora and Clackamas. Last year there were 12 caught.

Washington state had 18 catches at seven sites, said John Lundberg with the state Department of Agriculture. It was the second-lowest number caught since the program began. The lowest mark was 17 in 2002, he said.

The catches were made at seven sites in the state, Lundberg said. Seven moths were found in Midland in Pierce County, five in the area of Sunset Beach in rural Mason County, two in the city of Everett and one each in Bellingham, Issaquah, Renton and Tumwater.
Oregon set out 12,000 traps statewide and Washington put up 24,000 traps.

The gypsy moth is considered one of America's worst forest pests. In the caterpillar stage, the insects feed on the foliage of more than 500 trees and shrubs and can cause enormous damage to the environment and a state's economy.

In Washington state, agriculture workers are now out at the multiple-catch sites looking for evidence of further infestation, Lundberg said. If a site has multiple catches two years in a row or there is strong evidence of a reproducing population, plans to treat the area are made.

Nineteen states have permanent populations of gypsy moths. One state is Pennsylvania, which spent $7.9 million in 2008 to treat more than 220,000 infested acres. The treatments were not to eradicate the pest, but simply to suppress or slow its spread.

"The really saving grace is we continue to keep permanent populations out of (Washington) state," Lundberg said.

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