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Moth quarantine is extended to Cook, McHenry

Thursday, April 19, 2007
Morton Grove Champion

Cook, DuPage and McHenry counties are under a quarantine to control the spread of the tree-infesting gypsy moth insect.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced last week that the three counties were added to a quarantine list, which includes Lake County, where the quarantine was first established in 2000.
"It's the first time that Cook, DuPage and McHenry counties have had a quarantine. This is an actually an extension of the existing quarantine in Lake County," said Jeff Squibb, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
"The gypsy month population in those counties has been growing and it's reached a point where the department feels it's important to expand the quarantine," he added. "This is another tool to prevent the spread of an insect that has the potential be quite destructive."
The gypsy moth is a non-native pest that feeds on trees and shrubs. Large populations of gypsy moth are capable of stripping trees bare of leaves, leaving them susceptible to disease and in some cases killing the trees. The gypsy moth will feed on nearly anything leafy or green, but especially likes oak, hickory and willow trees.
Under the quarantine, all nursery and lumber products must be inspected or certified by the state Department of Agriculture before they can be transported out of the counties. In addition, residents of those counties must personally inspect vehicles, tents, outdoor lawn furniture, bicycles and other outdoor items for gypsy moth egg masses, live moths and caterpillars before taking them from the quarantine area.
Male moths are brown with black markings, and have a wingspan of about an inch-and-a-half. Female moths are white or cream colored and have wingspans of up to 2 inches.
Cannot fly
Squibb said a quarantine is important in controlling the spread because pregnant female moths cannot fly, so they lay their eggs on objects near the trees where they're feeding such as lawn furniture, picnic tables, campers or grills. "The moths hitchhike to move from place to place," he said.
Anyone convicted of illegally removing prohibited items from a quarantine area can be fined up to $500.
Squibb said while fines can be imposed for habitual or flagrant violators, the main purpose of the quarantine is to raise public awareness about the need to control the gypsy moth population.
"Admittedly, much of the inspections (by residents) are largely based on the honor system," he said. "We're asking residents for their compliance. Based on our past experience, we fully expect cooperation from the residents of these counties."
"There's no silver bullet for eradication It's more to control the population."
Richard Newhard
Cook County Forest Preserves
McHenry and Cook county officials say they have been dealing with the gypsy moth problem for years and were not surprised by the quarantine.
"We were expecting that for quite some time," said John Labaj, deputy county administrator for McHenry County. "It's been an issue in this county for at least the last eight years so it's not a new issue."
Labaj said there are scattered populations of gypsy moth in McHenry County, but the insect is most prevalent in the southeast and northeast parts of the county. He said the county conducts aerial sprayings in May to reduce moth numbers in heavily infested areas.
Richard Newhard, director of resource management for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, said forest preserve officials in the county had anticipated a possible quarantine, given that one has been in effect in Lake County for several years.
Here for 100 years
"One has to understand that the gypsy moth has been in this country for close to 100 years and has been moving from the East Coast to the West," he said.
Newhard said he believes Cook County was added to the quarantine list because many municipalities, particularly in the northern part of the county, have been seeing growing numbers of gypsy moth. For several years, he said the forest preserve district has monitored the gypsy moth population in the preserves and conducted bacterial treatments to reduce insect numbers in infested areas.
"There's no silver bullet for eradication," he said. "It's more to control the population."
Persons who want more information about the quarantine can visit the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Web site at or call (815) 787-5476.

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