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Gypsy moths on the move, as Virginia Tech experts work to 'slow the spread'

August 5, 2016

Gypsy Moth

This year’s explosive growth of gypsy moths and the defoliation that comes along with it, isn’t simply confined to New England states. While it could be the worst infestation since the 1980s in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, the gypsy moth is on the move in Southwest Virginia – especially Bland, Giles, Botetourt, and Bedford counties. 

Data on defoliation of Virginia trees is still being processed, but it’s already higher than at any time since 2008, according to Virginia Tech entomologist Andy Roberts. 

Read Roberts' full bio here.

“There is more gypsy moth activity in Virginia this year than we’ve seen in the past, particularly in the southwest," Roberts said. "The gypsy moth is moving, and when it hits in the first wave, it takes people by surprise. That’s typically when you get the most damage.”  

Roberts and fellow Virginia Tech entomologists continue to impress with results of a project called “Slow the Spread,” aimed at reducing the mating habits of gypsy moths in low-level populations. This barrier zone project is especially effective in preventing the spread of defoliation into woods and forests downstream.  

“Slow the Spread has been extremely effective for over 15 years now,” said Roberts. “While impossible to stop the spread, this project has been successful in reducing its growth from nearly 21 kilometers to approximately 4 to 7 kilometers per year. The real beneficiaries are the states and forest communities downstream.” 

The project is funded by the U.S. Forest Service. The team from Virginia Tech is focused on information systems and data collection, helping develop suggestions and action plans for slowing the spread in future years. 

To secure a live or recorded video interview with Andy Roberts from the Virginia Tech campus, contact Bill Foy in the Media Relations office at 540-231-8719 or 540-998-0288. 

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