Crop dusters flying over Fulton, Hancock, Lucas, Williams, and 17 other Ohio counties next month will do harm only to gypsy moth caterpillars, state agriculture officials say.
The spraying program to control the voracious caterpillars, which begins May 1 in east central Ohio, will conclude by midmonth after spraying 16,000 acres. Most of the spraying will occur between 6 and 10 a.m., but arrival of the crop dusters in northwest Ohio will depend on whether their flights in eastern Ohio are delayed by weather.
Areas of the four counties in northwest Ohio will be treated with a bacillus that isn't dangerous to humans, pets, birds, fish, and honeybees, Melanie Wilt, an agriculture department spokeswoman said. But the spray, in effect an organic insecticide, forms toxins in the caterpillars' digestive systems, causing them to stop eating and, eventually, killing them, Ms. Wilt said.
The state is targeting the larval stage of the insect because gypsy moth caterpillars feed on tree bark and leaves.
“A couple or three years of that can really damage a tree to the point where it dies,” Ms. Wilt said. The moth itself is “just a pest,” she said, and people who live in moth-infested areas are often driven indoors by the nuisance of moth excrement.
Gypsy moths have been located in 42 Ohio counties.
“Our goal is not to eliminate the gypsy moth - that would be next to impossible - but to minimize the damage it causes and not let it spread to other areas,” Ms. Wilt said.