All hands on deck: Fighting gypsy moths in GR

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids officials are taking a new approach as the city grapples once again with a growing gypsy moth population: mobilizing residents.

On Friday, there will be a first-of-its-kind training event during which experts teach the public how to help get rid of the invasive species before they cause more problems.

Joe Sulak, superintendent of Grand Rapids parks, told 24 Hour News 8 that homes and areas near 28th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue are usually hardest hit by gypsy moths.

“It’s not uncommon for gypsy moths to lay eggs anywhere,” Sulak said Thursday. “So it could be underneath your car. It could be underneath your camper.”

Once the insects hatch, they devour the canopy of leaves, especially from oak trees. Sulak explained that some tree species cannot grow new leaves, so they end up dying.

“The population boomed so now we’re just kind of dealing with that until it gets under control,” Sulak said.

The training at 2:30 p.m. Friday will take place at Oakgrove Cemetery near Kalamazoo and 28th, which is full of gypsy moth egg masses. Headstones, branches and tree stumps are covered in them and some larvae have already began hatching. Experts will show you how to scrape the eggs and larvae from trees and other surfaces.

“I like to get as close up to the tree as possible,” Daria Gosztyla explained as she scraped an egg mass off of a honey locust tree on College Avenue Thursday.

She isn’t on the city’s payroll. Rather, she’s one of the volunteer neighborhood foresters with the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Despite much greener foliage on College near Cherry Street, Gosztyla found several egg masses to take care of.

“I was thinking it was just a spider sac, but now I’m seeing it’s actually totally an egg mass hiding under a spider sac,” she pointed out while working diligently.

Gosztyla carries a toolbox packed with gloves, safety glasses, scrapers and jar full of soapy water, into which she dumps the egg nests.

“After I’m done, I just like to shake up to make sure they’re for sure submerged in that soapy water,” she said.

Adding dish soap to the mason jar of water is key, Gosztyla and Sulak explained, because it kills the larvae after they’re submerged for at least 48 hours.

Another technique involves wrapping trees with duct tape to catch slithering caterpillars headed up the tree towards leaves.

No matter which part of town residents live on, the city’s goal is to remove the tiny incubators before the invasive pests make it to the top. The message of this week’s event is that everyone can help.

“This took me less than a minute and I’ve scraped off hundreds of egg masses,” Gosztyla said, “and if I hadn’t done that myself, they would be defolitating this honey locust.”

“The take-home message of this is that we can do this on our own trees at home,” Sulak said.

The best way to get to Oakgrove Cemetery is to enter through the MacKay-Jaycees Park entrance and follow signs to the cemetery.

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