A natural resource milestone was achieved in St. Clair County last week. After a 20 year hiatus, St. Clair County revived its Spongy Moth Suppression Program.
Last year, St. Clair County experienced a sudden and severe spongy moth (formerly gypsy moth) outbreak. The 9-month anticipation of the aerial spray on Thursday, May 19 culminated with 4 airplanes spraying 5,100 acres infested with spongy moth caterpillars as reported by 1,500 property owners. What residents didn’t see was Friends of the St. Clair River’s Spongy Moth Coordination team, Kirsten Lyons and Lydia Nicholas, behind the scenes working over a thousand hours in 9 months, making site visits to nearly 500 properties, answering hundreds of phone calls and emails, and giving presentations to over 200 homeowners. At a time when homeowners were in a state of panic and stress, I saw staff react with composure and professionalism.
During the spray operations, numerous St. Clair County departments, along with Friends of the St. Clair River staff, were stationed in the county Emergency Operations Center and in all corners of the county tracking flight paths, monitoring weather conditions, and collecting samples to gauge spray success. We know many of you, along with us, are looking forward to a season of tolerable levels of spongy moth caterpillars and moths, and so are the trees! Follow up work will include visiting sprayed areas and talking with residents to assess treatment effectiveness, all the while, incorporating lessons and adjusting practices for next year. And, just like the spongy moth’s life cycle, the reporting, monitoring and mapping cycle will begin all over again.
The Spongy Moth Suppression Program revival is the result of St. Clair County officials taking a proactive approach to reduce outbreak levels of this exotic, invasive pest, protect our natural resources, and restore quality of life for thousands of residents. We extend our gratitude to the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners for their leadership and cooperation in the 2022 spongy moth program for going above and beyond to facilitate this program, fund it, provide GIS mapping services, inform our community, along with much more support.
It is no small task to successfully revive a decades old program with little lead time. Thank you to everyone that worked hard to make it happen, and for everyone’s patience the last 9 months as, together, we navigated the many necessary steps and hoops. We are feeling gratitude and pride for what has been accomplished to protect and enhance the St. Clair River watershed’s environmental, recreational and economic values and services. Our work will always remain rooted in evidence-based science and protective of quality of life while balancing ecosystem health. We will continue to deliver public education and raise awareness of local invasive species issues such as spongy moths. For additional spongy moth treatment measures, along with other resources, visit St. Clair County’s website at www.stclaircounty.org/caterpillars.
Sheri lives with her husband and two daughters, and 1 cat (River), in Port Huron. She is not grossed out easily by insects, loves snakes, and taking her family on hikes and bike rides whenever she can.