Gypsy moths thin on ground in Northwest

This year's counts in Oregon and Washington were the lowest numbers in about 30 years.

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Traps set in Oregon and Washington state to detect gypsy moths, a destructive forest pest, caught a record low number of the insects this year.

In Oregon, only one moth was caught this year, the lowest count since the trapping program began in 1979. Traps set in Washington state netted 13 moths at five different sites, the lowest number caught since 1980.

In Washington state, seven of the 13 moths were caught in Puyallup, two in Marysville in Snohomish County and two near Sunset Beach in Mason County. Single moths were caught in Renton and Fife. The lone moth caught in Oregon was found in Beaverton, west of Portland.

The low number of moths in Washington state, however, does not preclude an eradication project in next year, officials said. Agriculture workers are inspecting multiple catch sites for other evidence of gypsy moth activity before deciding whether to propose an eradication treatment for next spring. The last treatment for gypsy moths took place in Kent in 2007.

The gypsy moth is considered one of America's worst forest pests. It attacks more than 500 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and has defoliated millions of trees in the U.S.

The moths normally arrive in Washington in the form of egg masses attached to outdoor articles, such as picnic tables, birdhouses and children's toys brought here from 19 permanently infested states on the East Coast and in the upper Midwest. Some moths have also arrived on ships docked at Washington ports.

The number of moths caught in Washington since 1980 varies widely, peaking at 1,315 in 1983. Eighteen moths were caught in 2009, 21 in 2008 and 24 in 2007.

Oregon officials said it is the sixth time this decade that gypsy moth detections were in the single digits. By contrast, in the mid-1980s more than 19,000 moths were trapped in Lane County alone.

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