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People speak, state listens: Alternate moth spray chosen

Outcry convinces department to switch methods for Sharon Heights treatment

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The squeaky wheel gets the grease -- or in this case, the Gypchek.

Largely in response to ongoing complaints and protests from Clintonville residents and others, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials have switched gears in the fight to halt the spread of the gypsy moth.

Instead of using a biological insecticide with the unfortunate initials BTK to deal with an infestation in the Sharon Heights neighborhood, ODA personnel will employ a product called Gypchek, a naturally occurring viral disease.

The change in tactics was announced at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting, when a resolution opposing the use of BTK, which some local residents feared might also wipe out butterflies and even harm bees, was up for consideration.

Erica M. Hawkins, communication director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, confirmed the change the following day.

CAC members passed the resolution anyway as a precaution.

Gypchek might not do as good a job as BTK in controlling the invasive species, and the latter probably wouldn't be as harmful to other insects as some folks fear, but the voice of the people has prevailed, Hawkins said.

At a Feb. 12 open house at the Park of Roses, department of agriculture representatives fielded questions and heard concerns from dozens of Clintonville residents about the proposed method for stemming the spread of the gypsy moth, which was first introduced in the Boston area in 1869 and can now be found as far south as North Carolina and west to Minnesota.

The gypsy moth is a serious defoliator of broadleaved forests in eastern North America, to the tune of 3 million forested acres a year, according to a publication on Gypchek put out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

At the open house, state agriculture department representatives said Gypchek is produced in limited quantities that are snapped up quickly on an annual basis, and that the BTK approach probably was the only option. David S. Adkins, gypsy moth program manager for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, reiterated that position later in the week.

"Right now, the project's still a go," he told ThisWeek Booster.

In light of ongoing appeals to use Gypchek, Hawkins said Ohio officials reached out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which produces the virus, to see if the state could obtain enough to treat the three-block area in Franklin County where the infestation has taken place, Hawkins said.

"We weren't sure whether or not we could get it at this stage of the game," she added.

It turns out, they could.

Normally, Gypchek must be applied twice to be as effective as possible, Hawkins said, but the state was able to obtain just enough for a single application, which probably will take place in early May.

"There could be the potential that it might not knock down the population as much as we would like to see it knocked down," Hawkins said.

The new plan is the direct result of people expressing their opposition to the use of the biological insecticide, she said.

"We did the background work and worked with Fish and Wildlife and with state wildlife to see what the potential harms were for peripheral species and still think they were negligible, but the residents were really concerned," Hawkins said.

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