It’s hunting season for a small creature that endangers one of Missouri’s great resources.

About 12-thousand traps are being set in Missouri’s hardwood forests for gypsy moths. It’s the annual search for the critters that have been advancing across the country from New England at a rate of about six miles a year.

Illinois entomologists report they’re finding them in record numbers in the Chicago area—and they’re expecting the movement in our direction to double now that federal funding for the anti-moth program has been deeply cut.

Missouri’s state entomologist, Collin Wamsley, says the gypsy moth larvae are small..but they pose an enormous threat to the 12.5-million acres of Oak forest in Missouri. He says oak is a valuable resource in Missouri for the furniture industry, as part of the natural ecosystem, and four tourism. He notes that the large barrels used by the French wine industry are made of Missouri Oak.

So far, Missouri has not had any significant numbers of gypsy moths. Only seven were found last year. Sixty were found one year in the 90s. But as they munch their way closer, those triangular traps with sex pheromones inside them are assuming a greater importance each year.

Download Bob Priddy’s story (:62 mp3]