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Pine tussock moth watch / Looking for caterpillars in a sea of needles

For years Minnesota Forest Health Specialists have been cooperating with Canadian Researchers to monitor localized populations of a native jack pine defoliator, the Pine Tussock Moth, Dasychira pinicola (Dyar). In Minnesota it has caused noticeable defoliation and top kill in jack pine stands in the Moose Lake, Brainerd and Backus/ Nimrod areas. Pheromone lures have been developed and refined to a level that allows reliable collection of male moths, but research continues on the races and genetics of this economic pest. As with all laboratory studies, there are times when rearing programs need fresh field collections of viable caterpillars.

This is where the fun starts! Pheromone trap collections in 1998 indicate stands along the Wadena and Hubbard County line should contain high enough populations to allow for the easy collection of the distinct, large and hairy worms. Therefore, in May and June of 1999 armed with pole pruners, drop traps, saws and clippers; Forest Health Specialists will head out to scour jack pine crowns and collect this needle in the hay stack. Or should I say, this worm in the needles? They will be sent to Canadian researchers for further pheromone work. It is the least we can do for our Canadian friends, eh, and it helps monitor other jack pine pest buildups on our side of the border.