Meetings to discuss plans to slow the spread of the invasive gypsy moth are being hosted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture this week in northern Minnesota.
Gypsy moths can strip the leaves off of huge swaths of forest, weakening and even killing trees. They were imported to Boston in the 1800s. Lucy Hunt, gypsy moth unit supervisor for the Department of Agriculture, said the moths ever since have slowly munched their way westward.
"We are kind of right on the edge now of the main population, and we've been tracking these bugs for a couple decades now," Hunt said.
While the moths have crossed into northeast Minnesota, they so far have not established a reproducing population here. Hunt said infested forests are treated with a pheromone to disrupt the moths' mating. The department plans to treat about 60,000 acres this summer outside Duluth and Ely and on the Iron Range where moths were detected last year.
"We take these low level populations and treat them with mating disruption, so that the males can't find the females," Hunt said. "Thereby reducing the number of egg masses laid, and the next year the number of caterpillars that come out."
Two public meetings this week will take place 2 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in Ely, Minn. Further meetings will be Aurora and outside Duluth.