'Intense' gypsy moth infestation hits Minneapolis neighborhood

Gypsy moth
Gypsy moths
Courtesy Purdue University

An aggressive gypsy moth population is defoliating trees in parts of Minneapolis' Lowry Hill neighborhood.

State Department of Agriculture officials are prohibiting residents from moving trees and wood items from the area until early next summer. The restriction started July 1.

"I think the number of gypsy moths, the caterpillars that we've seen in the area, the number of spent egg masses — it's one of the heaviest infestations that we've seen in Minnesota," said agriculture department spokesperson Allen Sommerfeld.

A resident contacted the department after seeing caterpillars on trees. The department surveyed the area and found trees already being defoliated by the insects.

The insects are one of the most destructive forest pests in the country, Sommerfeld said.

"It feeds on over 300 trees and shrubs and can defoliate those trees and shrubs," he said. "Over time, if they become stressed from disease or drought or other factors, they can actually kill trees."

During the restricted period, residents also are asked to inspect vehicles, furniture and other outdoor items for gypsy moths before moving them out of the area.

"We really ask for the residents' cooperation," Sommerfeld said. "It's a cooperative effort to try to limit the spread of this infestation."

Treatment options are effective in the spring during the early life stage of the caterpillar, he said, so it's too late for this year. Treatment could occur next May, if there's funding, he added. There will be meetings and open houses with residents prior to treatment.

Most recently, an area of Richfield and part of Minneapolis were treated. The department restricted the area last November, administered treatment in the spring and lifted the restriction mid-June.

"That quarantine size and the treatment size was much larger than the Lowry Hill neighborhood," Sommerfeld said. "But Lowry is more intense. There are many more insects in this infestation than there were in Richfield."

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