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Lake County quarantined for gypsy moth

By Kate Grusich
Daily Herald
August 14, 2000
Web posted at: 12:43 PM EDT (1643 GMT)

LAKE COUNTY, Illinois (Daily Herald) -- The invasion of gypsy moths into Lake County has become so widespread that the state has intervened to try to head off a disaster that could make recent Asian long-horned beetle infestations look "calm."

The Illinois Department of Agriculture slapped a quarantine on Lake County last week that will require businesses to closely monitor almost any plant or wood product moving out of the county. And, the state added that similar measures in Cook and DuPage counties are likely to follow.

"These moths are going to make the Asian long-horned beetle look pretty calm," said Jim Cavanaugh, head of the gypsy moth program for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

"The beetle might infect a 10-block area, while the moth will hit an entire neighborhood or forest preserve. This quarantine is forever."

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The gypsy moth has been monitored by the state since it was first spotted in northeastern Illinois in 1974. Officials said much of the flow has come from Wisconsin.

While Lake County is the first area in Illinois to be quarantined, it is certain not to be the last.

"We're taking a hard look at Cook and DuPage counties right now," said Cavanaugh. "Lake County is the worst right now so we want to try to protect the other counties from being as infested. But I won't be surprised if the entire state is under quarantine within the next few years."

Gypsy moths were imported from Europe in 1869 and have since spread naturally. They have established themselves in about 16 states and defoliate up to 3 million acres of woodlands a year. The larvae devour the leaves of hardwood trees like oaks and aspens, leaving the trees unable to get the nutrients they need to survive.

People also spread the moth unintentionally, carrying egg masses on clothing, nursery stock and even furniture in moving vans, Cavanaugh said.

The agriculture department is currently drawing up agreements requiring Lake County businesses to treat infested products with sprays and pesticides.

"We don't have enough inspectors to be out there all the time," Cavanaugh said. "We'll probably do annual or semi-annual visits, but the individual nurseries will have to do treatment on any items that are leaving the county."

The quarantine was not unexpected by Lake County businesses, many of which have been doing self-inspections for the moths since the state began visiting regularly last fall.

"Our nursery has been actively spraying for moths," said Charlene Wooten, manager of Cedar Hill nursery in Lake Zurich. "We've already had inspectors so we don't expect anything to be different with the quarantine."

Earl Ferris, manager of Synnestvedt Co.'s wholesale department in Round Lake, said the only change will be some added expense.

"The inspectors have been visiting our property since they found a moth last fall," he said. "The cost of spraying and the time spent on inspection will definitely add up, though, and will be expensive."

The female gypsy moth is cream-colored, and the adult male has brown, feathery wings. The female can lay 1,000 eggs, which after hatching become 21/2-inch hairy caterpillars and can eat leaves covering more than a square yard.



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