Will County will be added to the Illinois Department of Agriculture's gypsy moth quarantine program sometime this spring.
The action is being taken to prevent the spread of the invasive gypsy moth, which was introduced to the United States in Boston in 1869. The insect spread to Illinois in the early 1970s and has been established here since the 1980s.
The quarantine will not prohibit any activities in Will County forest preserves, but preserve users are strongly encouraged to inspect any items they might bring into or out of the preserves for signs of gypsy moths in their various stages.
For forest preserve patrons who plan to camp, picnic or fish in the preserves, this means checking a variety of items including: backpacks, bicycles, boats, boat trailers, firewood, ice chests, outdoor furniture and tents. Other items to be inspected include wagons, sleds, cars and trucks.
"People spread the moth unintentionally, transporting the egg masses on campers, nursery stock, patio furniture, or potentially on any outdoor article, hence the name 'Gypsy,'" the Illinois Department of Agriculture stated in a press release.
More stringent requirements and inspections are required of people who are moving out of a quarantined area into a non-quarantined area. For more information on the state and federal inspection requirements, visit www.YourMoveGypsyMothFree.com.
Lake County was the first to be quarantined in Illinois in 2000 and McHenry, Cook and DuPage counties were added in 2006. In addition to Will County, the Illinois Department of Agriculture also plans to add Kane, Kendall and LaSalle counties to the quarantine list.
In addition to quarantining counties where a gypsy moth population is present, the agency also is trapping moths to accurately determine moth presence and it is conducting aerial applications of a mating disruption pheromone in areas with moth populations to slow the spread of the insects. Finally, the agency is working to raise industry and public awareness through outreach and education.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the gypsy moth has defoliated millions of acres of trees in the United States.
"The gypsy moth is a serious threat to forest, shade, and ornamental trees," the USDA said in educational materials about the insect. "Feeding on the leaves of at least 300 host species, gypsy moth caterpillars defoliate and weaken the trees that make up our national forests and community landscapes."
The gypsy moth is now found in 19 states from Maine to Wisconsin in the north and from Illinois to northeastern North Carolina to the south.
"Without intervention, this pest spreads about 13 miles per year," according to the U.S. Forest Service's Pest Alert on the gypsy moth. "Artificial movement dramatically hastens the spread by the insect hitchhiking on items that are moved long distances such as nursery stock, vehicles, forest products and outdoor household articles such as deck furniture. Federal and state regulations require that items to be moved from infested areas to uninfested areas must carefully be inspected and certified to be free of gypsy moth life stages."