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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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DNR warns of moth outbreak in area trees

FORESTS -- Inland Northwest landowners with woodlots are being warned to watch for signs of a tree-damaging caterpillar outbreak that's already affected at least 570 acres in eastern Spokane County and 8,500 acrees in North Idaho.

Defoliation from the Douglas-fir tussock moth was found in aerial surveys last year, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said in a press release issued moments ago.
Grand fir and Douglas fir are most susceptible to damage especially in the top third of the tree crowns.
Read on for more information and contacts.

According to the DNR release, damage from the tussock moth can reduce growth, cause top-kill and may predispose some trees to attack by bark beetles. Recreation can also be affected in areas with tussock moth present because the caterpillars’ hairs are a skin irritant to many people.

Specific areas affected in Spokane County are Mica Peak, Tekoa Mountain, Gelbert Mountain and Liberty Lake.
Idaho areas with defoliation include the Signal Point area, south of Post Falls; near Twin Lakes, northeast of Rathdrum; and in the vicinity of Plummer.
George Bacon, Director of Idaho Department of Lands, said his staff will continue to monitor the outbreak and will be communicating with landowners in the coming months who own more than five acres in the affected areas.
Ground surveys for egg masses indicate that defoliation in these areas may expand and increase in severity in the summer of 2011. Outbreaks typically collapse within two to four years due to a buildup of natural enemies, such as a virus and parasites. Most likely, 2010 was the second year of this outbreak.
The caterpillar life-stage of the Douglas-fir tussock moth prefers to eat the needles of grand fir and Douglas-fir trees. The Douglas-fir tussock moth is an insect, native to the Inland Northwest, with populations that run in cycles, dropping for a period of years between major outbreaks. The last outbreak in Washington occurred in Okanogan County from 2008 to 2010, leaving more than 3,500 acres defoliated at its peak in 2009. The last outbreak in the northern Idaho-Washington State border area was from 2000-2002.
DNR and IDL are asking forest and woodlot property owners in these areas to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of Douglas-fir tussock moth. Tussock moth cocoons and egg masses can be found on the underside of tree branches and structures such as building overhangs and fences.
Defoliation damage looks like reddish half-chewed needles and tends to be worst in the tops of trees. To report tussock moth damage or for more information, please contact your state’s Forest Entomologist: Glenn Kohler (Washington DNR) or Tom Eckberg (Idaho Dept. of Lands).

Detailed information on how to recognize Douglas-fir tussock moth damage, maps and images are available at the DNR and IDL websites for Washington and Idaho.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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