NEW YORK (WWTI) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will be conducting aerial treatments for the species that was formerly known as the gypsy moth.

The species is now referred to as the spongy moth and is a non-native insect from France. Elevated populations of spongy moth caterpillars were present in the state in the summer of 2021, which caused concern since the insect created noticeable leaf damage across the state.

To combat the issue, DEC has identified six high-priority area forests for the treatments to take place between May 20 and May 31. According to DEC, the priority areas that were chosen have already suffered spongy moth defoliation for multiple years and are expected to have high levels of the infestation once again this year, according to survey efforts conducted by DEC regional staff.

The areas that are being treated include Allegany State Park, Coyle State Forest, Rush Creek State Forest, South Valley State Forest, Sonyea State Forest, and Rome Sand Plains. DEC Forester Rob Cole further explained why those areas were chosen over others in the state.

“The areas chosen for spongy moth treatment reflect some of New York’s most valuable ecosystems,” Cole said. “Among our considerations in choosing treatment areas were the protection of endangered moth species in Allegany State Park, as well as several rare plants, butterflies, and birds in the Rome Sand Plains.”

The treatment being used is called Gypchek, which is a biopesticide produced from a naturally occurring nucleopolyhedrovirus, or NPV, that only affects spongy moth larvae. According to research by the U.S. Forest Service, Gypchek is not related to any human or mammalian viruses and is only distantly related to other insect viruses, meaning it has no negative effect on wildlife, plants, or people.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos explained the importance of the effort, in order to benefit not only the environment but also New York state residents.

“New York’s forest ecosystems provide critical habitat for a wide array of species while also providing a place for people to live and play,” Commissioner Seggos said. “These treatments, developed using sound science, will help DEC protect some of New York’s most vulnerable forests from the invasive pest spongy moth, which has been defoliating trees all across New York State for multiple years.”

More information on the spongy moth can be found on the DEC website. Additionally, a video update from Forester Cole on spongy moth across New York State can be found here.