The Mount Airy-Surry County Airport became the hub of gypsy moth disruption efforts on Wednesday
Crews associated with the N.C. Department of Agriculture began spraying pockets of the area infested with the moths.
The spraying will continue on Thursday and into Friday, according to Chris Elder, manager of the gypsy moth program.
At a public discussion at the Armfield Civic Center on Feb. 28, Elder explained the process to a standing-room crowd of concerned citizens.
“We are not trying to kill anything. Just confusing males,” said Elder, to giggles in the room.
Disrupting the mating part of the life cycle is at the heart of the plan. Female gypsy moths emit a pheromone that guides the male moths to them. Before the moths begin to fly, Elder said planes would fly over the affected area and spray the pheromone: a food-grade, organic product called SPLAT Gypsy Moth Organic, manufactured by Isca. Elder described it as a waxy, lotion-like substance that dries and doesn’t come off from where it’s sprayed.
When the males begin looking for females, they will not be able to find them because the smell will be everywhere. After a couple of weeks of looking for a mate without success, they will die, and the mating cycle will be disrupted.
Elder said that about a cup of the substance will be sprayed per acre by yellow crop-dusters, flying 100 feet above treetops at about 150 miles per hour.
Those yellow planes were the ones observed Wednesday by county residents.
Elder said in February the exact date of the spraying would depend on weather and how the life cycle of the moths progresses. He said the sprayed material would easily wipe off windshields, and if you get any on you, “take a hot shower; it will come right out.”
Residents of other parts of the county were not as well prepared for the spraying as the folks who attended the Agriculture Department’s discussion in Pilot Mountain.
Denise Coalson, a resident of the Pine Ridge community, said there had been no meeting in her area to her knowledge.
“I saw something on Facebook a few weeks back talking about it. Someone shared a news article and was against it. … So when the plane kept flying, I assumed that was what was happening,” Coalson said.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.