CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ)– Thousands of wooded acres in Centre County are going to be sprayed to get ready for the incoming spongy moth caterpillars this spring.

A survey in 2022 showed that Patton Township had a large number of spongy moth eggs in wooded areas in neighborhoods, according to a news release issued Monday by Township Manager Douglas Erickson.

A licensed aerial applicator will spray 1,285 acres of woods with biological insecticide Foray 48B, or Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies kurstaki Berliner (Btk), in late May, the release reads.

No insecticide will be sprayed within 300 feet of an open body of water, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) Spongy moth spraying program for 2023.

The moths have the potential to be destructive against trees in Pennsylvania by causing defoliation. The decision to spray the area with an insecticide was made after the survey discovered that the area had a “sufficient number of egg masses.”

The spongy moth, also known by its scientific name the Lymantria dispar, used to be known as the “gypsy moth” but was renamed by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) last year.

To warn residents and remind them of the spraying, the township will postcard notices to homes in April. Updates will also be made on Patton Township’s website.

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Outbreaks of the spongy moths happen every five to ten years, according to the DCNR. Before 2022, the population of spongy moths was declining due to disease and wet weather, but now spraying is needed more than ever to promote forest health.