In an effort to protect wildlife habitat, the Pennsylvania Game Commission plans to spray more than 50,000 acres of state game lands this spring.
Spraying will occur on 25 different state game lands — 50,125 acres in all — and will begin as soon as leaf-out occurs and gypsy moth egg masses hatch, likely in late April and May.
“Those participating in spring gobbler seasons or otherwise enjoying state game lands may encounter aircraft spraying forested areas for gypsy moths,” said Dave Gustafson, Game Commission Chief Forester. “We recognize some hunters might be temporarily affected by these activities, but disturbances are brief and only temporary, and by protecting these valuable habitats against a destructive, invasive pest, the forests will provide hunters the opportunity to chase gobblers there for generations to come.”
Most of the blocks of forest to be sprayed can be treated within one day, often within only a few hours.
The insecticide to be used is Mimic 2LV. Its active ingredient is tebufenozide.
This agent generally is considered safe to humans. Most negative side effects happen with repeated, long-term exposure to high concentrations of the product. As with any chemical, it may cause eye or skin irritation if exposed, and it is recommended to wash any affected area if irritation occurs.
The forests to be treated in the coming weeks have building populations of gypsy moths that, if left untreated, could cause severe defoliation this summer.
This year’s spraying will occur in the following regions: Southcentral, 12,505 acres; Southwest, 11,545 acres; Northcentral, 26,522 acres. The Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast regions, which showed little to no gypsy-moth population build-ups, are not slated for spraying at this time.
Gustafson noted that previous gypsy-moth impacts unfortunately led forests on state game lands to transition from mast-producing mixed-oak stands to stands dominated by birch and maple, which are not nearly as beneficial to wildlife.
“In the 1940s, after the chestnut blight nearly wiped out American chestnuts, which provided the best and most reliable wildlife foods, oaks filled the void for wildlife,” Gustafson said. “Unfortunately, in some areas, we now are seeing birch and maple replace the oak stands lost to gypsy-moth defoliation.
“Prior to gypsy moth impacts, oak trees in Huntingdon County reportedly were producing 173 pounds of acorns per acre. After gypsy moths, the same areas were yielding only 67 pounds of acorns per acre. Seven of the eight lowest acorn production years occurred after gypsy moths hit the area, and 43 percent of oak trees were lost.”
The Game Commission will transfer $832,576.25 from its Pittman-Robertson Federal Wildlife Grant funding to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees the Statewide Cooperative Spray Program for gypsy moths.
Peter Sussenbach, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management noted that, based on the value of state game lands oaks for wildlife, the agency simply can’t afford to forgo spraying this year.
“We know that mixed-oak habitats are important for all wildlife,” Sussenbach said. “Squirrel populations fluctuate with acorn crops. If acorn production is low, bears will den earlier, weigh less, produce fewer and smaller cubs and get into more nuisance situations. Deer over-winter survival and reproduction suffers when acorns are sparse. Neo-tropical birds, such as cerulean warblers, occupy habitats dominated by oaks. Wild turkey and ruffed grouse populations also feed heavily on acorns, which provide high fat and energy for maintaining winter energy demands.”
Broken down by region, following is a listing of each State Game Lands (SGL) slated for spraying and the acreage scheduled for spraying.
Southcentral Region: SGL 26, in Blair/Bedford Counties, 2,811 acres; SGL 73, in Bedford County, 2,256 acres; SGL 166, in Blair County, 4,922; SGL 198, in Blair County, 1,416 acres; SGL 278, in Blair County, 912 acres
Southwest Region: SGL 42, in Westmoreland County, 2,472 acres; SGL 108, in Cambria/Blair County, 4,463 acres; SGL 120, in Cambria/Clearfield Counties, 1,551 acres; SGL 158, Cambria County, 3,059 acres
Northcentral Region: SGL 14, in Cameron County, 1,978 acres; SGL 33/60, in Centre County, 4,713 acres; SGL 34, in Elk/Clearfield Counties, 1,744 acres; SGL 37, in Tioga County, 413 acres; SGL 64, in Potter County, 691 acres; SGL 75, in Lycoming County, 1,537 acres; SGL 87, in Clearfield County, 964 acres; SGL 89, in Clinton County, 1,885 acres; SGL 92, in Centre County, 149 acres; SGL 100, in Centre County, 6,614 acres; SGL 103, Centre County, 2,045 acres; SGL 208, in Tioga County, 727 acres; SGL 295, in Clinton County, 1,785 acres; SGL 321, in Clinton County, 715 acres; SGL 323, in Centre County, 426 acres.