A major threat to our oak forests and the economic value they have to Missouri has munched its way closer. That munching is making Missouri bug-watchers nervous.
Every year, state entomologist Collin Walmsley checks the traps for for gypsy moths, which have killed thousands of acres of oak trees in the northeast. This year he found ten, indicating there’s no established population here.
But in Iowa, traps turned up 624 males, 73-percent more than the old record. That’s not good news to Walmsley. "It makes us very nervous," he says. He says Missouri has about 12.5 million acres of oak forest in Missouri, and gypsy moth larvae like oaks. "We have about a four-to-five billion dollar forest products industry in Missouri that’s dependent on oak," he adds.
He says the moth is moving this way quickly with the numbers found in Iowa. He says there was an outbreak in southwest Illinois, near St.Louis, last year. And what’s worse is that funding for a federal eradication program has been cut in half–increasing the approaching threat.
Walmsley says there are effective pesticides to fight them if a population is found in Missouri. But heading off the need for those pesticides will require continued close attention.