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FOREST INSECTS STRIP 1.6 MILLION ACRES

 HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The state Department of Environmental Resources (DER) reported today that a variety of insects defoliated more than 1.6 million of Pennsylvania's 17 million acres of forest this spring and summer.
 Two-thirds of the defoliation was caused by the elm spanworm, a leaf-eating caterpillar which attacks primarily beech, elm and maple trees.
 The pear thrips defoliated 336,000 acres, mainly in the north central and northeastern parts of the state, while the gypsy moth stripped 315,000 acres, primarily in the central portions. The cherry scallop shell moth, forest tent caterpillar and fall cankerworm defoliated 107,000 acres across northern Pennsylvania.
 The elm spanworm, which is usually controlled by natural parasites within a year of an outbreak, has been a problem in portions of the state for three years. This year has seen the largest known outbreak of the insect. It is now widespread across the northern third of the Commonwealth and as far south as Somerset County.
 "We're not sure why the elm spanworm has become such a problem for us," said Barry Towers, chief of DER's forest pest management program. "Typically, parasites destroy the eggs and cause the collapse of the elm spanworm population before we have a chance to conduct extensive surveys."
 Towers said the state does not have a spray program for this insect, but is currently monitoring the number of eggs and the effects of the parasite. Some limited spraying of the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will take place on state forests and parks in the spring to develop spray procedures for this insect. No residential spraying is scheduled.
 "Unfortunately, since the parasites don't invade the elm spanworm eggs until late April, and spraying must be done in May, it is difficult to determine the need for widespread spraying in residential areas," Towers said.
 The need to contract out for the spraying in January compounds the problem.
 To control gypsy moths, DER plans to spray about 90,000 acres of state forest and parks and forested residential areas, mainly in northern and central counties.
 In addition to the defoliation caused by the forest insects, 15,000 acres of forest were heavily damaged in March storms, primarily in the southcentral counties.
 /delval/
 -0- 9/3/93
 /CONTACT: Gretchen Leslie of the Department of Environmental Resources, 717-787-1323/


CO: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources ST: Pennsylvania IN: ENV SU:

MJ -- PH010 -- 8811 09/03/93 11:54 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 3, 1993
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