What in the world were they spraying over Duluth?

By KBJR News 1

July 29, 2014 Updated Jul 29, 2014 at 6:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- You may have noticed low flying planes over Duluth in the last couple of days.
They're spraying to control the gypsy moth population in the area.
As the planes fly over homes and gardens some people are questioning what exactly is in that spray.

"I never saw anything dropping from them but these small green sticky tacky pieces are all over the yard" said Lisa Kuberra, who also had her vegetable garden covered, which has her concerned as to the safety of her food.

"If they're going to be putting something on my vegetables, I need to know what's going on them, and for them to be so tacky and gluey and sticky" said Kuberra.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture assures residents that the substance isn't harmful.

"What I encourage people to do is if they do see it on their vegetables, if they're concerned in their garden, just simply wash it off. Soap and water should simply wash it off" said Kimberly Thielen-Cremers, Pest Mitigation and Biocontrol Unit Supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Planes flew just over the treetops dispersing the flakes all over Duluth on Monday. The hope is to stop the gypsy moth from getting a foothold in Minnesota and destroying the forests. The flakes carry a pheromone that disrupts mating for the moths.

"It actually interrupts their natural mating cycle so the males will come out start looking for the females which to mate with and they literally get confused because they're going to all of these areas of pheromones and they literally die in their natural cycle before they can mate with a female" said Thielen-Cremers.

The flakes aren't pure pheromone. The pheromone is put into a fine PVC plastic so it will be emitted slowly and then covered with glue.

"It allows the flakes when they're coming from the aircraft to actually stick within the canopy of the trees because we want to basically flood the entire area" said Thielen-Cremers.

The moths are numerous, but the pheromone, which according to the MDA only affects gypsy moths, is not extracted from them, actually, it's been created synthetically in a lab.

"so it's truly literally taking the female and taking that chemical component that she's releasing and reconstructing that and being able to put that into the product" said Thielen-Cremers.

The MDA and EPA assures the product is not toxic to humans or other animals.

Spraying for the year has concluded in Duluth and will continue next year if gypsy moth populations don't decline.

Bryce Henry
bhenry@kbjr.com