Spongy moth, formerly known as the gypsy moth, is a pest that we don’t want to get established in Kentucky. To that end, a national effort known as Slow the Spread has been helping to monitor for and eliminate emerging populations of this key forest pest. Without their efforts, Kentucky would already have breeding populations of spongy moths, but thanks to their work, we are still free of this pest for the most part. Spongy moth can feed on more than 500 species of trees, but oaks are their favorites.
In order to continue this trend though, we have to be vigilant for spongy moth incursions. We must be wary of Ohio, Indiana, and both West Virginia and regular Virginia as possible sites of invasion. To best accomplish this, an array of pheromone traps is deployed across the state to monitor for male moths wandering into the Bluegrass.
What might you see?
Pheromone traps for spongy moth are either orange or green. They are sometimes called delta or triangle traps due to their shape. They are usually stapled or zip-tied to trees in out of the way areas. Inside of these traps is a string that contains a pheromone that simulates a female moth. Around these strings will be a glue-covered area so that males that fall prey to the trick will get stuck.
What should you do?
Absolutely nothing. These traps aren’t something that you would need to deploy at your home; they are a part of a partnership between the USDA and the Kentucky Office of the State Entomologist.
In the past, the Kentucky group has found traps pulled down, cut up, and even shot with shotgun blasts. When these traps are discovered, they should be left alone. Without them, we may miss an incursion of spongy moths, which could allow the pest to get a toehold in Kentucky and affect our large timber industry.
Please leave the traps alone and know that they are there to help. The traps are usually deployed between May and August of any given year.
By Jonathan L. Larson, Entomology Extension Specialist