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Health and Medicine

Ag planes are spraying Ohio this week to try to slow the gypsy moth
State says chemicals are safe and is posting notificaitons

Jo Ingles
Courtesy of Ohio Department of Agriculture
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In The Region:

Some Central Ohio residents were scared by low flying planes this morning . It turns out those planes are owned by the state’s Department of Agriculture, which is using them to halt the growth of the gypsy-moth population. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, the department will continue to spray other parts of Ohio this week.

LISTEN: Gypsy moth spraying

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Some residents, like those in suburban Columbus, received an alert on their phones that began like this:

“The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be applying…”

ODA uses four insecticides in the Slow the Spread and Eradication programs.

1) Btk, is a microbial pesticide made up of bacteria and spores that are toxic to gypsy moth caterpillars. When the caterpillars eat leaves sprayed with Btk they get sick, stop feeding and eventually die.
2) Dimilin, is a synthetic insect growth regulator. When the caterpillars feed on leaves treated with Dimilin, the insecticide prevents them from molting successfully to the next stage of their life cycle.
3) Mimic is a synthetic insect growth regulator. When the caterpillars feed on leaves treated with Mimic, the insecticide causes them to prematurely molt and die.
4) Gypchek contains a virus that is specific to gypsy moth. When the caterpillars feed on the leaves treated with Gypchek, the virus attacks and destroys the stomach cells causing its death. Due to the limited supply of Gypchek, it is reserved for those areas that contain Threaten and Endangered (T&E) species. 

In other areas, the notifications were in newspapers, and a fuller explanation was on the department’s web site.

Still, many Ohioans say they are concerned because they had no warning and are afraid of the chemical being applied.  Dan Kenny, the assistant chief of plant health for the department, says there’s no need to worry.

The product is non-toxic.  It is not harmful to humans, pets or other wildlife.

Still, indicators for the product say it shouldn’t be applied to water. And Kenny says the planes avoided water.  He says backyard swimming pools have filters that should be able to remove the very small amount that could land in them.  But Kenny also says there was no need to empty bird baths, pet bowls and things with standing water, which don’t have filters.

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