County bill to spray for this year’s invasive moth infestation

St. Clair County will foot the bill for aerial spraying in early spring to suppress the next infestation of an invasive moth species that ravaged area trees in 2021.

Over the past few months, the county has instructed Friends of the St. Clair River to take reports of properties that have been heavily impacted by moth caterpillars – renamed gypsy moths in place of the “gypsy” label. more common but derogatory – and survey for egg masses to help predict where they are likely to return later this year.

With more than 5,000 acres estimated to be affected, the County Board of Commissioners approved up to $550,000 for the next stage of the effort at a meeting last Thursday.

A contract to award a bid to apply a biological pesticide to foliage in the area will be on the agenda for commissioners at a postponed council meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 10. The list of affected areas includes most of St. Clair County, except for a few. communities, namely cities like Port Huron.

Although township and county officials have previously talked about cost-sharing or charging residents, County Council Chairman Jeff Bohm said local government board approvals won’t come in time before the end of the week. gypsy moth eggs hatch in a few months.

“Then the spray won’t happen (and) will do a lot more damage,” he said, citing the cyclical nature of moths that allows infestations to spread geographically from year to year.

“That would be the year we would step in and pay for the spring and then notify the townships,” Bohm said. “…I’m more concerned with the execution, to be completely honest.

How much and where?

According to the county, an original estimate put the spraying of about 5,300 acres at more than $508,800. It came in at over $90 an acre.

County Administrator Karry Hepting said he heard from Michigan State University’s Macomb County expansion that 247 of the 400 acres affected in Memphis — areas of the border city that are in the St. Clair County – were also impacted, bringing in an additional $23,465 at cost.

Bohm then rounded.

Clyde Township had the most with 2,376 acres, followed distantly by St. Clair, Columbus, Kenockee, Grant and Emmett Townships with 606, 574, 325, 277 and 260 acres, respectively.

Burtchville, Casco, China, Kimball, Lynn, Mussey, Port Huron and the townships of Wales, as well as Fort Gratiot, county parks and the town of St. Clair, are also listed with areas ranging from 15 to 175 .

Baldwin: Moth control will cost less in the future

Kirsten Lyons, the stewardship director of Friends, whose team scoured local forests and tree-dense properties for egg masses last fall, said scientific consensus on the number how many years a cycle lasts before a moth population naturally collapses depends on who you ask – often just a few years up to seven to 10 years.

“Most of the properties we surveyed seem to have a big problem again in 2022,” she said of the upcoming infestation. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t collapsed in a year.”

Still, Lyons said St. Clair County has been lucky because it’s been two decades since the last major cycle.

Going forward, officials said how they track the moths – also known scientifically as Lymantria dispar or L. dispar – will depend on the success of the spray.

Technically, they said individual communities or landowners can opt out.

Commissioner Jorja Baldwin, who Bohm said has been tapped to lead much of the moth discussion, said property surveys are likely to continue to be important.

Eggs are usually laid in July and August and left over winter, hatching 100 to 1,000 caterpillars in late April or early May.

“There may be years where there is very little spraying or maybe years where there is no spraying, but you have to investigate the year before so you don’t have to spray the following spring”, Baldwin said. “This is the program that was built this year. Going forward, it will be much cheaper each year due to a lot of groundwork that has been done this year. Systems are built.

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

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