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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Moths feasting on park's trees

WAUSEON - Wauseon park leaders, who realized early this month that Reighard Park was infested with gypsy moths, scheduled a meeting of nearby homeowners for Thursday night and are making plans for extra labor, at a cost of thousands of dollars, to fight the bug.

Park employees noticed on June 5 that a large oak tree that was completely green the previous Friday had turned brown in just 2 1/2 days, said Neal Graf, parks and recreation director.

Eight trees have now lost all their leaves, and by summer's end at least half the trees in the 20-acre park are likely to lose leaves, he said, because moths infest about 75 percent of them. The trees are expected to survive unless the summer is especially hot or dry.

Mr. Graf hopes residents will continue to use the park in eastern Wauseon. But he is warning departing visitors to carefully check their clothing, towels, lawn chairs, and anything else they bring to the park for the distinctive black caterpillar with a series of six red dots and four blue dots.

"Otherwise they could be taking that problem home with them, and they won't realize it for a couple years," he said.

Thursday night's meeting, which will feature representatives from the Ohio Division of Forestry and Ohio State University Extension, will help nearby property owners identify and fight the gypsy moth. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the park's Potowatomi Shelterhouse.

City leaders plan to apply for state aid to remove egg masses of the bug next winter and spray next spring. There is nothing that can be done at this time of year to fight the moth, Mr. Graf said.

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