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Grant addresses spread of invasive moths

By Kevin Elliott

Bloomfield Township will receive nearly $15,000 next year to help control the spread of an invasive moth species known for decimating countless trees and costing millions of dollars in damage across Michigan and the eastern United States.

Spongy moths (formerly known as Gypsy moths) received a new name in July from the Entomological Society of America, but the moths have long been established in Michigan and Oakland County. Named for their spongy egg masses, the familiar moths emerge as hairy caterpillars in the early spring and feed on leaves throughout the summer, defoliating oak, birch and other trees. The damage leaves trees vulnerable to diseases and other pests. Outbreaks also result in debris, frass, which is fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood produced by the activity of boring insects, and excrement that may disrupt outdoor activities.

To suppress local populations, the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees on Monday, October 24, approved the township’s participation in the 2023 Oakland County Invasive Spongy Moth Suppression Grant, which will provide $14,952.50 in funding for a fall egg mass survey and treatment. The grant requires the township to pay for the activities, with the county reimbursing half of the costs budgeted.

Olivia Olsztyn-Budry, director of engineering and environmental services for Bloomfield Township, said an egg mass survey will be conducted by Davey Resource Group, which will also conduct treatment services next year. Olsztyn-Budry said the county amended the language of the grant to ensure the survey would be included as a reimbursable expense. The total cost for the survey and treatment is $29,905.

Trustees unanimously approved the grant application. Funds for the work has already been budgeted and approved in the 2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets.

Spongy moths came to the United States in the 1860s, when the Civil War affected the availability of cotton and a new silk moth was being sought. In Michigan, spongy moths were particularly problematic in the 1990s. The current outbreak began in a few regions of the state in 2019, and has spread to most of the state, according to Michigan State University Extension.


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