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MOTH EXPERTS HOPE TO CUT BARRAGE IN HALF

State and federal officials who directed the pesticide spray attack this summer on the gypsy moth said Thursday they hope they can cut next year's moth barrage in half.

More than $700,000 has been spent this year battling the gypsy moth - seven times the amount spent last year during the opening salvo against the pest.Steve Munson, U.S. Forest Service entomologist from Ogden, who is helping to manage the gypsy moth war, called this summer's campaign a big success operationally.

"We sprayed three applications of the biological pesticide bacillus thuringiensis, or BT, - a total of 31,000 gallons - on 20,062 acres in and east of Bountiful, Salt Lake County and Provo between May 8 and June 15 without an accident.

"We won't know until November, though, how successfully our spray program has been in eradicating the gypsy moth along the Wasatch Front.

"Some 8,500 traps will have been placed in residential, state and federal lands - not only along the Wasatch Front, but throughout Utah - by Aug. 1.

"We'll start checking the traps in late August through October and by November we should know how well we've succeeded in our eradication and control program.

"We'll have to have a helicopter spray program for the next three years. After that, if we've been successful, we can probably just do some spot spraying by hand whenever necessary.

"If our expectations are realized, we probably can cut down our spray area next year to 10,000 acres, but we'll probably have to spray as many residential areas."

He said this year's gypsy moth project used five helicopters, three spraying and two observing. Munson said helicopters flew on 20 days and each of the three spray helicopters flew about 55 hours.

Munson said Utah may escape the devastation from the moth that has changed the nature of forest lands in along the East Coast and as far west as Ohio and Michigan and as far south as Virginia and West Virginia.

"The gypsy moth got away from them in the East. Hard woods are disappearing at an alarming rate. Forests of oak are changing to forests of maple and ash, which are less susceptible to the gypsy moth.

"California and Oregon have been successful in stopping the moth's onslaught and we hope to do as well in Utah." Other areas of the West being invaded by the gypsy moth include Colorado and Idaho, he said.

"We'll probably always have some kind of a gypsy moth problem because people keep moving to Utah from the East Coast and bringing the moth egg masses with them."