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State Dept of Ag to drop flakes on Fermilab to fight moths

BATAVIA – Low-flying aircraft will sprinkle moth pheromones on much of Fermilab and some sections of Batavia in an attempt to combat the spread of a different kind of winged threat.

Next month, contractors working with the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Raleigh, N.C.-based Slow the Spread Foundation will continue the fight against the gypsy moth, bringing the struggle to Batavia and Fermilab.

The work locally will involve contractors flying low over Fermilab, dropping small “pheromone flakes,” said Scott Schirmer, plant and pesticide specialist supervisor at the IDAG office in DeKalb.

He said the flakes will be small pieces of PVC plastic that have been “impregnated” with female gypsy moth pheromones.

Once spread over an area, the flakes have the effect of preventing the male gypsy moths from locating female moths with which to mate.

“Basically, they make the whole place smell like a female gypsy moth,” Schirmer said.

He said the flakes are nontoxic and can be easily wiped off any surface onto which they might fall.

Schirmer said those looking on likely will not see anything falling out of the planes.

“It’s not going to look like a spray,” he said. “The best way I can describe it is, it’s like sprinkling a Dixie cup full of doughnut sprinkles from the air over a large piece of land.

“The flakes are that effective.”

The work is tentatively scheduled for June 24.

Schirmer said the technique, coupled with targeted pesticide spraying for gypsy moth caterpillars in other areas, has proven “quite successful” at halting the spread of the moths, and even reclaiming some territory over which the moths had ranged.

For decades, public agriculture and forestry officials have fought the spread of the moths, which are not native to North America, and have devastated trees in many areas in which they have spread.

The moths have spread into 11 states thus far, including much of the upper Midwest.

Slow the Spread is funded by the federal government.

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