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Female gypsy moth.

Female gypsy moth. (Photo courtesy of WSDA)

After more than 40 years of trapping, the Washington State Department of Agriculture has discovered live female gypsy moths for the first time, according to a news release.

“This is an extraordinary find for our team,” said Jim Marra, WSDA Pest Program Manager. “While we have found evidence of reproducing gypsy moths in the past, we’ve never found female moths actively laying eggs in our state. To halt the egg-laying activity and remove this infestation before the caterpillars hatched likely saved our state from an extensive, multi-year eradication project that would have cost millions of dollars. It’s confirmation that our program is working as intended.”

About 100 females were collected in the Puyallup area, where the WSDA spent several days collecting moths and removing vegetation. Numerous males, as well as egg masses, pupae casings, shed caterpillar skins and live pupae were collected as well.

The high number of catches and discovery of infestation make it likely that the state will propose an eradication project next spring. The most recent project was an aerial treatment of more than 10,000 acres in Western Washington in 2016. Of the 100treatment projects since 1979, only two — in Colville in 1992 and 1993 — were in Eastern Washington.

Anyone who spots what they believe to be a gypsy moth should contact the WSDA for proper identification and removal. Call 800-443-6684, or email gypsymoth@agr.wa.gov