By Douglas D. Melegari
WOODLAND – Last year’s gypsy moth outbreak in Burlington County, which hit sections of Woodland Township particularly hard in May and June 2021, not only took the New Jersey Department of Agriculture “at devoid,” but was the result of a “neighboring town” refusing to spray, Woodland Township Clerk Maryalice Brown said Jan. 26 of what was recently passed to her by the agency. , which administers the state’s annual gypsy moth control program.
However, Jeff Wolfe, a spokesman for the NJDOA, provided this newspaper on February 7 with a different reason for last year’s outbreak, saying it was the result of a particular fungus known for “decreasing gypsy moth populations” which was not as prevalent in 2021 due to dry weather last spring, and that these outbreaks are generally cyclical on a five-year basis.
This year, according to Brown, the state’s gypsy moth control program will include Bass River, Tabernacle, Washington, and Woodland in Burlington County (all of which have voluntarily decided to participate in the program), in addition to a portion of the Cape May County, pointing out that the state believes the gypsy moth problem is “very localized.”
Three of the towns targeted for spraying in Burlington County, Bass River, Washington and Woodland, reported gypsy moth defoliation last year. But Woodland was the hardest hit, with tree canopies on parts of County Road 563 resembling winter in summer.
“I told them (the NJDOA representatives who met with Woodland) how caught off guard we were,” Brown said at a Jan. 26 Woodland township committee meeting. “He told me they were too. They had no idea it was going to happen. Apparently there was a very bad problem in one of the other nearby towns, but I won’t name any names. They were told they had a problem, that they had to spray, and they refused to do so, and that’s what caused the explosion last year. So everyone was caught off guard.
This newspaper previously reported that a total of 170 acres located in Burlington and Cape May counties, had been proposed by the NJDOA for treatment in the spring of 2021. According to the NJDOA website, the Burlington County Municipality ” chose not to participate in the (2021), leaving 50 acres in Cape May County for processing.
The NJDOA later identified in this newspaper the municipality it said had opted out of the 2021 gypsy moth suppression program as Washington, with an aerial survey of defoliation in 2021 detecting an infestation” moderate” of squishy there at the time.
However, Karen Bacon, Washington Township’s assistant clerk, previously told the newspaper that “nothing” was on file “about the gypsy moths.”
Questions had been asked last year by residents of Woodland about why Woodland had not participated in an aerial survey of defoliation for 2021. A request satisfied by the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) the last year revealed that Woodland last participated in such a survey in 2016.
Woodland Mayor William “Billy” DeGroff, responding last year to questions that were raised, said at the time, “We don’t have a crystal ball (with) knowledge of gypsy moths!”
“We had no problems with gypsy moths last year,” he added at the time. “Now that we have a problem with them, we are dealing with it. And the state will come out in the fall, and we will spray all affected areas in the spring.
The NJDOA last year did not say whether the lack of treatment in Washington had in any way led to Woodland’s predicament. The hardest-hit area of Woodland is about 20 minutes from the township line with Washington, and according to Michigan State University, which maintains a gypsy moth resource, “most larvae end up feeding on trees within 100 to 150 yards of where they hatched” and “young larvae may be blown up to half a mile from the egg mass where they hatched”.
Wolfe, following comments from Brown’s January 26 committee meeting, when asked by this newspaper if the state had determined why the gypsy moth outbreak was as bad as it was in 2021 , and the reason for it, replied, “Gypsy moth populations are basically cyclical, with epidemics occurring approximately every five years.
“However, due to wet weather conditions, the area has had the fungus E. maimaiga in recent years, decreasing gypsy moth populations in the spring, in deeply forested, non-residential areas of the state,” Wolfe added. . “E. maimaiga kills gypsy moth caterpillars. When active, it passes through and kills the local population, spreading spores over the area sometimes causing severe population reductions.
“Last spring the weather was relatively dry (aside from a few thunderstorms), so there was less, if any, impact of E. maimaiga on gypsy moth populations in southern areas of the state, which allowed them to spread into residential areas.In 2021, defoliation was observed on 10,199 acres, and the last time similar levels were observed was in 2017, when 13,574 acres were affected.
According to Brown, spraying in Woodland is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 3.
“It is exceptionally weather dependent,” Woodland’s clerk said of what she was told by the NJDOA. “If it’s too wet, too cloudy or too cold, they can’t spray. If the leaves have not bloomed enough, they cannot spray.
Although the spray that will be used is said to be “safe, according to Brown, the NJDOA “doesn’t want anyone sprayed with it, like a child waiting for the bus.” Therefore, Brown argued, the state is coordinating with Woodland and the local school district to schedule a “one-hour downtime,” during which time sprays will not be dispersed to allow proper layoffs to take place safely, etc. Residents would receive notifications of when this stop time will occur.
Additionally, “township employees” were asked to patrol the streets during the spraying to watch for potential “joggers” disregarding warnings, Brown noted, and that if anyone is seen jogging, employees “will be instructed to grab the jogger and put them in their vehicle.
In past spraying programs, balloons were used to mark off targeted areas for spraying, Brown says, but the program now relies on GPS systems, which makes balloons more necessary, Brown says.
Daniel James, Washington Township Mayor, promised at a February 1 Washington Township Committee meeting to get Washington on board this year’s gypsy moth program and make “two applications” at $156,660. .
“We’re going to have a bad year whether we like it or not,” James said. “We are going to spray. There is no doubt about that. It is a necessity; we have to spray. … As long as we give them a check, they’re happy and we’re happy.