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State and federal officials are teaming together to take on a soft-bellied, delicate but tough enemy.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, is planning to eradicate gypsy moth infestations in Roane, Bledsoe and Cumberland counties.
The 53-acre-area affected in Roane is around the Philadelphia community near the Meigs County line.
Public informational meetings will be held for area residents who would like information about this forest health issue and the treatment plan.
TDA Division of Forestry representatives will be there to explain the project and answer questions.
The meetings will be held in the following locations:
• Roane County: Midway Elementary School, Hwy. 72, Midway, March 24, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
• Cumberland County: Cumberland Mountain State Park, Recreation Bldg., Crossville, March 21, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. CDT.
A meeting was alreay held on Thursday in Bledsoe County.
Three infested blocks of forest totaling 1,629 acres across the three counties will receive two aerial treatments of the naturally occurring biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis variety kurstaki (Btk), conducted three to five days apart.
One block in Bledsoe County is located 11 miles northeast of Pikeville off Hwy. 127 (1,457 acres) and includes a few acres in Cumberland County.
The second block is located south of Hwy. 101 near Kendall Smith Rd. in Bledsoe County (119 acres).
The third block in Roane County is on Pattie Gap Road.
The treatment will be applied by single-engine aircraft to tree leaves when the gypsy moth caterpillars are feeding on them.
These treatments are planned for April 18 and April 22.
However, the actual dates will be based on insect development and weather conditions.
The application will start in the morning soon after daylight and end about an hour later.
Btk is a naturally occurring bacteria found in soil. An inactive form of the bacteria is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use as a pesticide to control gypsy moth.
It is commonly used by organic gardeners to control pests, and is approved for use on more than 200 food and grain crops in the United States.
Gypsy moth caterpillars damage and kill trees and shrubs by eating leaves and needles.
They are considered one of America’s worst forest pests and have defoliated millions of acres of trees in the eastern U.S.
Gypsy moths can spread widely in a region.
Infestations of gypsy moths cause extensive environmental and economic damage by destroying forests as well as orchards and residential trees.
The gypsy moth was introduced to North America about 100 years ago from Europe and is now an established pest in the Northeast and upper Midwest regions of the U.S. T
hey were first detected in Tennessee in 1972 but a permanent population has never been established due to detection and control efforts.
More information about gypsy moths and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Gypsy Moth Eradication Program can be found at: www.aphis.usda.gov/hungrypests/GypsyMoth.shtml and www.state.tn.us/agriculture/forestry/foresthealth.html.