Aerial Treatments will Slow the Spread of Gypsy Moth Infestations

Contact(s): Rebecca Robbins (540) 265-5173

(June 14, 2018) Marion, Va - The USDA Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plan to spray treatments from aircraft to control gypsy moth infestations this June. The treatment is part of the national program to “Slow the Spread” of the gypsy moth.

The treatment area includes approximately 4,600 acres of private and National Forest System lands in Grayson and Smyth Counties, VA.  The treatment area will be sprayed with a gypsy moth pheromone, a “scent” that confuses the moths during mating thus disrupting their reproduction. The spray only affects the gypsy moth. The spray poses a very low risk to people, other insects, birds, fish, or other animals. 

Approximately two miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, one mile of the Virginia Highlands Trail, and three miles of the Mount Rogers Trail located in the treatment area will be sprayed to control gypsy moth infestations.  The trails will be signed to inform trail users of the project before they enter the treatment area.  

The treatment is applied by aircraft flying at very low elevations over affected areas. Aerial applications are conducted only under suitable weather conditions.  With favorable weather, the entire project area could be completed in one day sometime during the week of June 18, 2018.

“The use of mating disruption is part of the Slow the Spread program that focuses on early detection and reduction of low-level populations.  The treatment is expected to prevent current low level infestations of gypsy moths from growing to outbreak levels,” says Forest Service Entomologist Donna Leonard.  

The gypsy moth is one of the most destructive pests threatening the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on tree leaves, damaging and even killing trees. Trees that are repeatedly defoliated by gypsy moths have a high risk of dying.  Because oak leaves are a favorite food of gypsy moth caterpillars, oak forests are particularly susceptible to defoliation.  
Learn more about the Slow the Spread project at