Over 81,000 acres in West Virginia defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 81,000 acres of state, federal and private forestland in West Virginia were defoliated by gypsy moths in 2008, up from nearly 78,000 acres in 2007, according to studies conducted by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

“This is a troubling trend in West Virginia, particularly when you consider the severe cuts in federal funding that we expect for next year’s spray program,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Gus Douglass.

“The area defoliated this past year is nearly the size of Pleasants County (86,400 acres). That is a substantial amount of lost forest productivity, as well as a visual blight to residents and visitors alike.”


Defoliation was recorded in 10 eastern West Virginia counties: Berkeley, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Monroe, Morgan and Pocahontas.

The heaviest defoliation was recorded in Greenbrier and Monroe counties which experienced 26,717 and 26,989 acres of defoliation respectively — roughly 85 square miles of defoliation in the total.

Get sprayed

Douglass still urged owners of forestland to sign up for aerial spraying during the 2009 Cooperative State/County Landowner Program. Signups for 2009 close Aug. 31.

Applicants can withdraw if they later decide their portion of the cost-share program is too high, but must register by the deadline to determine eligibility.


Douglass noted that other forest health protection programs, including a special emerald ash borer initiative and numerous pest survey projects.

Douglass said he remains committed to protecting the fields and forests of the state.

“I am confident that funding will be restored at some point.”


A minimum of 50 contiguous acres of wooded land is required to participate in the program. Adjoining landowners may combine their properties to meet the acreage requirement.

Blocks must be as rectangular as possible to be treated without significant overspray. The presence of electrical transmission lines or communication towers may prohibit some blocks or portions of some blocks from being sprayed.

Counties eligible for the 2009 program include Barbour, Berkeley, Braxton, Brooke, Doddridge, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jefferson, Lewis, Marion, Marshall, Mineral, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Nicholas, Ohio, Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Ritchie, Taylor, Tyler, Tucker, Upshur, Webster and Wetzel.


Application forms and brochures detailing the program are available at www.wvagriculture.org/Division_Webpages/plant_industries.html, at local WVU Extension offices, and at WVDA field offices.

More information on the state’s gypsy moth programs is available at http://home.comcast.net/~wvdanewcreek.

About the moth

The gypsy moth feeds on over 500 species, including numerous West Virginia hardwoods

Defoliation by gypsy moth caterpillars can kill trees, or weaken them substantially, making them more susceptible to other pests and diseases.

Originally introduced into Massachusetts in 1869, the gypsy moth has slowly spread north to Maine and south to North Carolina. Despite control efforts, the infestation continues to move south and west.

Moths were first documented in West Virginia in 1972, and the first caterpillars were found in 1978.

Each year, gypsy moths affect tens of thousands of acres of West Virginia forest and cause millions of dollars in lost forest productivity.


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



Receive emails as this discussion progresses.