Be prepared, airplanes will once again fly the skies over the North Shore in pursuit of gypsy moths. In fact, this spring will be the biggest aerial combat ever.
With more gypsy moths found in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, last year, state agriculture experts in both states have decided to expand aerial spraying this year in an attempt to keep the leaf-eating bugs in check.
Last year the state Department of Agriculture found infestations of adult moths covering a record 114,000 acres in Cook, Lake, Carlton and St. Louis Counties. In addition to spraying in the Duluth-Proctor area, planes will fly up the shore to Tofte, Finland, Beaver Bay, Gooseberry Falls and more.
In June planes will spray a natural soil bacterium called Btk, which kills moth caterpillar but is harmless to other forms of life. In July, broader efforts will see synthetic hormone flakes dropped to confuse male moths so they cannot mate.
Gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate large areas quickly, causing stressed trees to reduce growth or even die.