Thursday, August 09, 2001

Caterpillars ravage Ohio in worst year on record

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Robert Ruse has seen the tree branches swaddled with masses of gypsy moth eggs and tree trunks crawling with the moths' caterpillars.

        “Some property owners have indicated when they go out at night, they hear caterpillars munching and crunching on the leaves,” said Mr. Ruse, safety-service director for the city of Findlay in northwest Ohio.

        Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliated 80,000 acres of trees in Ohio this year, the worst damage yet recorded, the Department of Agriculture said Wednesday. The number is almost twice the 42,000 acres damaged in 1999.

        “The gypsy moth is the No. 1 insect pest threatening Ohio's hardwood trees,” Agriculture Director Fred Dailey said in a statement.

        Aerial surveys found that the damage was done in residential and rural woodland areas in the east and north, said Deborah Abbott, Agriculture Department spokeswoman.

        The moths are starting to move out of the Cuyahoga River valley and into east-central Ohio, including Coshocton, Licking and Tuscarawarus counties, she said. There was also increased damage in northwestern Ohio because of a spike in the moths' population cycle, Ms. Abbott said.

        John Lahoski, a lumberman in Summit County, said the increase in gypsy moths could hurt the timber industry by killing off trees.

        “In this type of climate, having all this heat, the trees are weak to begin with from a lack of water,” said Mr. Lahoski, general manager of Terry Lumber and Supply in Peninsula. “With defoliation it makes them that much weaker.”


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