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Asian Gypsy Moth Sighting Alarms South Bay Officials

Patch logo Patch 7/24/2020 Gideon Rubin
a insect on the ground: A male of the gypsy moth with large pectinate antennae (Lymantria dispar, Family Erebidae) © Shutterstock / DeRebus A male of the gypsy moth with large pectinate antennae (Lymantria dispar, Family Erebidae)

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA — The detection of an Asian gypsy moth in Sunnyvale has officials alarmed.

The County of Santa Clara Agricultural Commissioner in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture has launched a search for the invasive pests.

The agencies are placing about 2,300 traps over 81 square miles of the county, with 36 per square mile in a 25-square-mile core area around the initial detection site. The traps will be inspected weekly, according to the county's Consumer and Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S.D.A. issued a warning about the invasive pests, according to a USA Today report.

"If established in the United States, Asian gypsy moths could cause serious, widespread damage to our country’s landscape and natural resources," the warning read.

The invasive pests were detected in Washington state earlier this year, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to issue an emergency proclamation.

The proclamation said the invasive pests were discovered northeast of Seattle in Snohomish County, UPI reports.

"This imminent danger of infestation seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries of the state of Washington and seriously threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents," the proclamation said.

Early detection of an infestation is important, according to the County of Santa Clara Agricultural Commissioner's Office, because female Asian gypsy moths can fly up to 25 miles and lay up to 1,500 eggs, which means the moth could spread quickly.

Each Asian gypsy moth caterpillar can eat a square foot of leaves each day and is capable of consuming hundreds of different species of plants.

The moths can defoliate trees and shrubs, weakening them and making them more susceptible to disease, according to the USDA.

In addition to local native oaks, an infestation would threaten fruit crops, according to the county environment agency.

The caterpillars also have long hairs that can irritate some people's skin and cause allergic reactions that last up to two weeks.

The moths were identified by the agency's coordinated pest prevention system.

Asian gypsy moth eggs can be transported on ships and shipping containers coming from Asian countries and Russia, and they may be found on recreational vehicles, firewood, outdoor furniture and other portable items.

Anyone who sees a new or unusual plant or pest in the area can report it online here.

— Bay City News contributed to this report

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