My dictionary says "Gypsy: a nomadic people that migrated to Europe from a border region between India and Iran. The definition also includes: one that resembles a Gypsy in behavior."

A relatively new insect inhabitant of Utah hasn't migrated from Asia, but it certainly has gypsylike behavior in the way it gets from place to place.The gypsy moth is a serious pest that has defoliated millions of acres of trees and shrubs in the northern United States. In recent years, isolated populations of the insect have been detected in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.

In 1988, the gypsy moth and its earlier life stages were found along the east bench of Salt Lake County. Entomologists familiar with its habits estimate that it first arrived here three to four years ago and has now established a population large enough to come to the attention of homeowners and the Utah Department of Agriculture. There's also enough to threaten our environment, but more on that later.

A naturalist first brought the gypsy moth to Massachusetts from Europe in 1869 to develop a disease-resistant silkworm and establish a new textile industry. During his experiments, some of the moths escaped. They now infest most of the Northeastern states and are still spreading westward.

The gypsy moth is a notorious hitchhiker. The female moth lays her eggs on any solid surface, such as trees, outdoor furniture, recreational vehicles, firewood, automobiles, etc. They seem to be attracted to man-made objects or common items in the yard. When these objects are moved, the moths may be transported long distances. Items brought by families or students moving from infested areas are thought to have started Utah's gypsy moth population.

The gypsy moth has tremendous capacity to increase its numbers rapidly. The larvae feed on a wide range of trees and shrubs. Small populations can rapidly build to large infestations, causing widespread defoliation. Trees are weakened and sometimes killed after successive defoliations. Defoliated forests are susceptible to disease, fire and soil erosion. Aesthetics, recreational and economic values of parks, forests and wooded homesites are affected by tree loss. Infested areas are subject to restrictive quarantines and control activities to prevent further spread of the insect.

ADIO ANSWERS GARDENING QUESTIONS

I take phoned-in questions on KTKK, 630 on the dial, each Saturday from 8 to 9 a.m. Larry Sagers, my co-worker, does the same on KSL, 1160 KhZ, from 8:35 to 10 every Saturday morning.

AWN WATER

Apply 1 1/2 inches to replace what was used last week.