MDA planes to treat for Spongy Moths in the Northland

Yellow planes help fight spongy moths in the Northland

Minnesota Department of Agriculture will treat certain areas by spraying to slow the spread of spongy moth.

The sound of planes may fill the air for the next few days in Carlton and St. Louis Counties as the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) treats certain areas to slow the spread of spongy moth.

MDA will use a method of mating disruption involving the aerial application of an organically certified, waxy, food-grade substance containing pheromones specific to spongy moths that confuses the male moths. The application makes it difficult for the male spongy moths to find females for mating. The result is fewer caterpillars hatching and attacking trees next year.

Kimberly Thielen Cremers is a manager of the Spongy Moth Project with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. She says the Spongy Moth is a tree defoliator that can feed on up to 300 species of trees and shrubs. “So we have a lot at stake,” she says.

What are Spongy Moths?

Spongy Moths are an invasive species from Europe that was introduced to the United States back in the 1800s and 1900s. They were mostly in the Northeastern part of the U.S. but recently have moved westward into the Minnesota region.

According to Thielen Cremers, we do not have an established population of the pests other than north of Two Harbors to Grand Marais, in Lake and Cook Counties. She says there are many populations already in Wisconsin.

MDA says the spongy moth is one of America’s most destructive tree pests. Oak, poplar, birch, and willow are among their preferred hosts. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally help them spread by transporting firewood or other items on which the moths have laid their eggs.

Thielen Cremers says the catepillars can get large in size. “About the size of my pinky,” she says. “Very ferocious feeders, very hungry at the time they’re out. And this is the damaging stage of the insect itself.”

“The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is a part of a national program called Slow the Spread and we partner with the U.S. Forest Service and our goal is to reduce the natural spread of Spongy Moth and the artificial spread as it’s moving across the US by over 60%,” Thielen Cremers says.

The pheromones used are completely safe and will not have any adverse impacts to people, animals, pets and birds.

Wednesday, July 10 – Friday, July 12 beginning at 6:30 a.m.

There are 13 treatment sites throughout Carlton County, including Cloquet. There are five treatment areas in southern St. Louis County, all on the western side of the county.

Thursday, July 11 beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Six sites in central and northern St. Louis County

* Dates and times are dependent on the weather.

Residents can look up their address on a interactive map to see if they are within any of the areas to be treated.

The planes and the treatment are the best way to help prevent the spread, however, Thielen Cremers says the public needs to be aware that we can all help in the fight.

“They love hitchhiking with humans,” Thielen Cremers says. “They’re having extreme outbreaks up by the Bayfield Peninsula area of Wisconsin. So a matter of an hour away, you can go travel with a nice boat, camper. They will crawl onto those equipment and then you’ll unknowingly bring them into Minnesota.”

Residents are asked to sign up for text or email notifications for the most up-to-date information on these activities, by texting “MNMDA Treatments” to 66468. If you would like to receive an email notification text “MNMDA Treatments [your email address here]” to 66468. You can also sign up online. Exact locations can be found via maps on the MDA website or an interactive map that is searchable by address.