Gypsy Moth Caterpillars Eating Their Way Across Ohio

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliated a record 42,513 acres in Ohio in 2001.

The highest toll was in Coshocton County in northeast Ohio, where oak-loving caterpillars hit 11,391 trees. Licking, Tuscarawas and Harrison counties also suffered significant damage, said Bill Pound, gypsy moth program manager for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The gypsy moths were spotted in northeast Ohio but now live in 42 of Ohio's 88 counties and are rapidly moving south and west. The species has been seen as far south as Jackson County, almost to the Ohio River.

"We've been dreading this situation for a long time. I'd say within the next five years, we'll see severe and widespread defoliation," said Dan Herms, an entomologist at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Wooster.

Gypsy moth caterpillars eat leaves from hardwood trees in May and June before they become moths.

Pound said it's difficult to determine how many acres of dead trees can be attributed to the gypsy moth. Although the caterpillars put trees at risk, disease, drought and other factors also determine whether the trees die.

The state plans to spray pesticide on about 27,000 acres next spring, Pound said. Last spring, Ohio treated 25,984 acres in 18 counties.

Spraying costs about $13 an acre and is paid for by The Ohio Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)