The heart of a densely populated Minneapolis neighborhood is under a gypsy moth quarantine, and that has put specific state-imposed expectations on residents.
The roughly yearlong quarantine covering part of the Lowry Hill neighborhood began Saturday after a resident reported a significant gypsy moth infestation on trees, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA).
An MDA staff member went to the scene and "found thousands of gypsy moth caterpillars that had already started defoliating trees," a statement from the agency read.
Gypsy moths, an invasive species from Europe, have caused millions of dollars in damage to trees in the eastern United States. They are common in Wisconsin and "are now threatening Minnesota," the agency statement continued.
"This is one of the worst gypsy moth infestations I have seen," Kimberly Thielen, the MDA's gypsy moth program supervisor, said in a statement that accompanied the quarantine announcement. "Trees and outdoor items are covered with caterpillars. We're confident this insect came to Minneapolis through the movement of infested wood or outdoor items."
The newly quarantined area is bounded by Mount Curve Avenue on the north, Franklin Avenue on the south, Irving Avenue on the west and Dupont Avenue on the east.
The MDA has placed traps throughout the area to measure the breadth of the infestation. Once the agency treats the area for gypsy moths sometime next year, then the quarantine can be lifted.
Here is the impact of the quarantine on the area's residents:
• Branches and other wood material pruned from trees and shrubs must stay on the property. Even if chipped, the trimmings can still harbor gypsy moth eggs. Grass clippings can be removed from property.
• Residents need to inspect various equipment and household items being removed from the quarantined area. That includes wood pallets, patio furniture, grills, recreational equipment, trucks, campers and boats.
• If residents see a suspected gypsy moth egg infestation, they should scrape it off or leave it be. These egg masses are brown, fuzzy blobs about the size of a quarter. Anyone in Minnesota who suspects a gypsy moth infestation can call the MDA at 1-888-545-6684 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
To further inform residents about the quarantine, the MDA is hosting an open house on July 11 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Kenwood Community Center, 2101 W. Franklin Av.
Officials have been tracking these infestations in Minnesota since 1973. The state imposed its first quarantine in 2014, covering the northeast tip of the state. Treatments were conducted in Richfield in 2009 and other west metro suburbs in 2011.
The gypsy moth's spread is traced to an accidental escape of a moth from a Massachusetts lab in 1869, when a scientist brought the species from France to breed a better silkworm. The moths have no natural enemies, giving them free rein over 300 species of trees and shrubs.