Two portable weather stations set up in the Olympus Cove area in the eastern part of Salt Lake County this week will help agriculture experts decide when to spray the area for gypsy moths.
The Olympus Cove area, which includes more than 4,500 homes, will be quarantined Monday in a large-scale program to eradicate the destructive moth, according to Utah Department of Agriculture officials.Officials said everyone in the Olympus Cove area is supposed to have been notified of the quarantine by Monday and quarantine signs should have been posted throughout the area.
The quarantine includes 6,000 acres and applies to boats, campers and other recreational vehicles, mobile homes, camping gear, trees, shrubs and prunings, timber, building materials and outdoor household and garden items. While the quarantine is in effect, these items cannot be taken out of the area without an inspection for moth infestation. However, prunings and other plant materials may be discarded by putting them out for trash collection or by taking them in a covered vehicle to the sanitary land fill.
The gypsy moth was detected in Utah last summer, and the largest concentration of the pest has been found in Olympus Cove.
Van E. Burgess, director of plant industry for the Utah Department of Agriculture, said the moth threatens to destroy fruit and shade trees and watershed in Utah at the cost of millions of dollars.
William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service's Salt Lake Forecast Office, said the two portable weather stations are monitoring wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity in Olympus Cove.
The stations have been set up on the top of Oakridge Elementary School in Holladay and in a yard in Mill Creek Canyon. Alder said the stations are in a line of sight with the weather service office at Salt Lake International Airport and readings from the portable stations will be received by radio.
Officials say the target date for spraying is about May 1 but that timetable may have to be speeded up if the weather warms. Likewise, spraying may have to be delayed if temperatures remain cooler.
Burgess said the spray, Bacillus Thuringiensis insecticide, or B.t., will be administered to 1,190 acres inside the quarantine area. Helicopters will fly from 50 to 100 feet high to deliver the spray. He said the spraying contract went out to bid Monday. Bidding will be closed April 18 and the low bidder chosen as soon as possible. Cost of the eradication program won't be known until the bids are returned.
"The Utah Legislature this year earmarked $112,000 for emergency insect programs, but we have to worry about the apple maggot, cherry fruit fly, Russian wheat aphid, cereal leaf beetle, grasshop pers and crickets, too. We will get federal funds to help fight the gypsy moth,"Burgess said.
Balloons will be launched to let helicopter pilots know where the spray area boundaries are.
Burgess said the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Utah State University Extension Service, Salt Lake Parks, the Wilderness Society, State Lands and Forestry, Salt Lake City and County Health and several other groups are involved in the eradication program.
"We formed a Gypsy Moth Decision and Action Committee and we finished drawing up an environmental impact statement Thursday. It will be available to anyone who wants to see it, and we will entertain comments for 30 days."
Burgess said 7,000 traps have been put out since the gypsy moth was first discovered in Utah. An additional 17,000 will be put out this year.