Trapped gypsy moth. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Trapped gypsy moth. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Aircraft to spray 1,300 acres for moths in Everett, Woodway

Gypsy moths can devastate forests. The state Agriculture Department plans to stop them from getting a foothold.

WOODWAY — They’re the worst of tenants. They’re destructive, they eat everything in sight and they don’t know when it’s time to leave.

Gypsy moths native to Asia have set up camp in some Snohomish County forests, and they’re getting evicted this spring.

Nearly 1,300 acres in Woodway and an Everett neighborhood south of Mukilteo Boulevard will be sprayed with insecticide — dropped from a height of 100 to 200 feet by an airplane — to stop the moths from spreading and to prevent them from gobbling up forest foliage.

The first Hokkaido gypsy moth showed up in Woodway last year. It was reportedly the first of that type of moth found in the United States. Moths near the Boulevard Bluffs neighborhood have also tested positive for both European and Asian genetic traits, and the state Department of Agriculture intends to eradicate them.

“This is really bad because they’re very destructive to environment in the U.S.,” department spokesperson Karla Salp said.

When there’s a moth outbreak, they can strip entire forests of their leaves.

Their favorite trees are oak, but they feed on up to 500 species.

“They’ll basically eat anything that is around,” Salp said.

Proposed 2020 gypsy moth treatment in Woodway. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Proposed 2020 gypsy moth treatment in Woodway. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Deciduous trees (the ones that drop and regrow their leaves every year) can potentially survive. But repeated defoliation will kill even a deciduous tree.

The Pacific Northwest’s iconic evergreen trees aren’t as resilient to the moths. Once stripped of foliage, the tree dies, Salp said.

A Hokkaido moth could have stowed away on a bulk cargo ship from an infested area across the Pacific Ocean.

The gypsy moth is considered the worst forest pest insect ever to find its way into the country, according to the state Department of Agriculture. It has defoliated millions of acres of trees and shrubs since first arriving in the United States in 1869, when a naturalist brought over a bunch of its eggs to crossbreed with silk worms.

The silk business didn’t work out, and some of those gypsy moths escaped.

More than 150 years later, 20 Eastern and Midwestern states have permanent infestations of the European gypsy moth. In 2015, the damage was so bad in Rhode Island that it could be seen from space. A year later, a third of the state of Massachusetts was defoliated by gypsy moths.

Proposed 2020 gypsy moth treatment in Boulevard Bluffs. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Proposed 2020 gypsy moth treatment in Boulevard Bluffs. (Washington State Department of Agriculture)

The gypsy moth was first detected in Washington in 1974. Since then, a few have have been trapped almost every year.

“The good news is that we have been trapping for over 40 years and we’ve prevented them thus far from getting established in Washington,” Salp said.

Last year, the state Agriculture Department used 20,000 traps and caught 14 moths.

A permanent population does not seem to have gained a foothold. Washington has sprayed for moths almost annually since 1979.

In recent years, the moths have been trapped locally on Camano Island, in Martha Lake, Mukilteo, Oak Harbor and Snohomish. The moth trapped near Martha Lake resulted in aerial spraying over about 700 acres last May.

Treatment for the 1,300 acres in Woodway and in Everett could take place anytime between now and June. It all depends on the weather, Salp said, and on when the moths hatch.

The state Department of Agriculture will spray a soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, or Btk, one to two weeks after the insects’ eggs hatch. The insecticide is approved for use in organic agriculture, according to the state.

Treatment will cost nearly $300,000, with federal funds covering about 80%.

Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; jgsanders@heraldnet.com.

Spraying when?

People who would like to know exactly when the treatment will occur can sign up for notifications on the state Department of Agriculture’s website at agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

Two Washington State ferries pass along the route between Mukilteo and Clinton as scuba divers swim near the shore Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ferry shuffle: Mukilteo, Edmonds riders can expect ‘loading delays’

For four weeks, Mukilteo sailings will be reduced by 34 cars and Edmonds by 20 cars, in boat swap due to ferry maintenance.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Freeland massage therapist charged with sex crimes

The judge set bail at $7,500 for the health care provider, who was accused of sexually assaulting two clients last year.

Lynnwood
Suspected DUI crash injures trooper on I-5 north in Lynnwood

WSP spokesperson said two suspected impaired drivers have crashed into a state trooper in the past 24 hours.

John Pederson lifts a flag in the air while himself and other maintenance crew set up flags for Memorial Day at Floral Hills Cemetery on Friday, May 24, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Volunteers place thousands of flags by veterans’ graves in Lynnwood

Ahead of Memorial Day, local veterans ensure fellow military service members are never forgotten.

State Trooper Isaiah Oliver speaks to a BNSF worker at mile marker 31.7 as road closures and evacuations mount in response to the Bolt Creek Fire on Saturday, Sep. 10, 2022, on U.S. 2 near Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
As wildfires creep west of Cascades, county plans for next Bolt Creek

Wildfires are an increasing concern in Snohomish County. A new project aims to develop a better plan.

Everett High seniors, from left, Avery Thompson, Lanie Thompson, Melissa Rosales-Alfaro and Saron Mulugeta sit together in front of their school on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The group have called to question their district’s policy that does not permit graduates to decorate their mortarboards or graduation clothing. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After student campaign, Everett schools allows custom graduation caps

“It’s a really good first step,” the Everett High School ASB president said. But the students still want relaxed rules for future classes.

People hang up hearts with messages about saving the Clark Park gazebo during a “heart bomb” event hosted by Historic Everett on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Future of historic Clark Park gazebo now in hands of City Council

On June 5, the Everett council is set to decide whether to fund removal of the gazebo. It could be stored elsewhere.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.