Aerial gypsy moth spraying more costly, restricted since

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Terrorist attacks cause gypsy moth spraying program to use more security

May 22, 2002

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- The aerial spraying being done in Wisconsin this spring to kill leaf-eating gypsy moths includes more security because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a spokeswoman for the program said Tuesday.

Access to two airplanes doing the spraying has been restricted, security guards have been hired to watch the planes and the chemicals and the planes will be disabled when not in use, said Jane Larson of the state Agriculture Department, which administers the spraying program.

The security added $20,000 to the cost of the $2 million program, she said.

Spraying took place in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties Tuesday after starting Monday in Columbia, Iowa and Sauk counties, she said.

The low-flying planes prompted at least 8 calls to 911 in Ozaukee County from people wondering what was going on Tuesday morning, said Jackie Huybers, a sheriff's department dispatcher.

"Some believed that it was a terrorist attack. They were screaming alarmed," she said. "We knew we were going to get calls because even when they do crop dusting out here, we get calls."

Homeowners in all of the sprayed areas were sent post cards telling them that planes flying 50 feet off the ground will be flying early in the morning, Larson said.

Plus, police dispatchers and other emergency officials are alerted so authorities know low-flying planes will be in the area, Larson said.

The spraying is being done with two airplanes owned by Al's Flying Service of Ovid, which won a contract to do the work, Larson said.

The FBI did background checks on the four pilots doing the flying as a security precaution, Larson said.

Gypsy moths threaten trees in urban areas and in forests because they feed on leaves of many species.

The moths spread to the Midwest after large areas of forest were destroyed by them in the northeastern United States. The insects, which are native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, were accidentally introduced to the states in 1869.

Wisconsin has been doing extensive spraying in the spring since 1990, and primarily the eastern third of the state is infested with the moths, Larson said.

Spraying this spring is planned on about 326,000 acres, using either a bacterial pesticide, which attacks the caterpillars when they eat sprayed leaves, killing them before they can mature and reproduce, or pheromone flakes, which disrupt the gypsy moth mating cycle.

Studies have found no human health effects attributable to either treatment, according to the state Agriculture Department.
 

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