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Edge density key to controlling gypsy moth spread

Controlling population peaks on the edges of the gypsy moth range may help to slow their invasion into virgin territory, according to a team of researchers.

"Slowing the spread of the gypsy moth is a priority in forest management in the U.S.," says Ottar Bjornstad, associate professor of entomology and biology, Penn State. "Understanding the underlying patterns in the spread of invasive species is important for successful management."

The accidental release of the gypsy moth in 1869 in Massachusetts has led to an infestation covering more than 386,000 square miles of the U.S. Northeast. Native to Europe and Asia, gypsy moths are currently found from Maine to North Carolina and west into Wisconsin where they defoliate trees and occasionally, cause extensive damage to northern deciduous forests.

"We analyzed historical data on the spread of the gypsy moth in the U.S. and found that its invasion has been characterized by regular periods of rapid spread interspersed between periods of little expansion," says Bjornstad. "This is the first identification of pulsed invasions for an invading species."

Bjornstad; Derek M. Johnson, Department of Biology, University of Louisiana, and Andrew M. Liebhold and Patrick C. Tobin, U.S. Forest Service, used historical, county-level quarantine records as well as forest service data from more than 100,000 pheromone traps set along the expanding gypsy moth population front for their theoretical model. The pheromone trap data were collected from 1988 to 2004.

They used a theoretical model to show how an interaction between negative population growth at low densities "the Allee effect" and the existence of a few satellite seed colonies created by human transfer of the insects over long distances, explain the invasion pulses, the researchers explain today (Nov. 16) in Nature. The gypsy moth adult is flightless and usually only spreads a short distance beyond infestation boundaries. External colonies occur w
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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
15-Nov-2006


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