75 gypsy moth traps placed on Mercer Island

This trap near the Town Center is just one of 5,500 gypsy moth traps set out across King County. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
This trap near the Town Center is just one of 5,500 gypsy moth traps set out across King County.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

For 35 years, the Washington State Department of Agriculture has kept the gypsy moth out of Washington. With the help of nearly 30 seasonal gypsy moth trappers, officials hope that record continues.

In June 2008, WSDA began its annual gypsy moth summer trapping program, placing more than 23,000 small, tent-shaped cardboard traps throughout the state to identify any new introductions of the destructive pest. The state plans to set 5,500 traps in King County and about 75 on Mercer Island. Traps will be checked every two to three weeks this summer and then taken down in September.

If multiple catches are made in an area over two years or other evidence of gypsy moth activity is noted, an eradication treatment in the area may occur the following spring.

Tracy Shirek, trapping coordinator for King County, is confident that her trappers will spot any new introductions. “We’re working hard,” Shirek said. “We want to identify infestations when they’re small and then eradicate them. We want to keep Washington the Evergreen State.”

The gypsy moth is one of the worst forest pests to have been brought to the United States. In its caterpillar form, the pest attacks more than 500 species of trees and shrubs, causing millions of dollars of environmental and economic damage across the country each year. The moth is now permanently established in 19 states in the east and upper Midwest. Last summer alone, gypsy moth larvae defoliated more than a million acres of trees.

For more information on Washington’s gypsy moth control program, call the gypsy moth hotline at (800) 443-6684.

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