SHARECOMMENTMORE

ST. PAUL, Minn.-A record 69,400 gypsy moths have been trapped in Minnesota so far this year, a number that will continue to climb as Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) staff members collect the 14,500 insect traps set out this spring.

The previous record high in Minnesota was 27,858 in 2009.

Counting the number of moths caught in the traps gives MDA officials a sense of the size and location of the gypsy moth population. Trapping is not meant to control or reduce the insect population.

Gypsy moths have caused millions of dollars in damage to forests as they spread from New England westward. The MDA, along with state and federal partners, have battled the invasive pest for nearly 40 years.The first treatment for gypsy moth was done in 1980 in St. Paul. Since then, over 767,000 acres have been treated across the state - mostly in northern Minnesota.

"We have put up a valiant fight for many years and will continue to do so," said MDA Plant Protection Director Geir Friisoe. "These numbers tell us the battle plan must begin to shift. We go from keeping gypsy moth out of Minnesota to containing and slowing the spread of the insects that are here."

Over the next several weeks MDA staff will search for reproducing gypsy moth populations. Evidence of egg masses will be an indication the bug has taken up permanent residence in the state, and it will guide future treatments.

The MDA says Minnesotans can fight gypsy moths in two ways: First, don't transport firewood. Second, when leaving any area infested with gypsy moths, check tents, vehicles and other outdoor articles for the moths' distinctive fuzzy, buff-colored egg masses.

More details can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/gypsymoth.