SNP prepares for aerial pesticide spraying

photo credit Scott Bradley Hesson with permission

The Shenandoah National Park announced that they will begin spraying an aerial, naturally occurring pesticide to suppress the nonnative spongy moth caterpillars in the area.

The initiative is in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and will take place along sections of Skyline Drive from mile marker 39 to 51 and in the Skyland and Big Meadows Area.

A specialized helicopter will spray a total of 3,150 acres of the park over the span of two mornings between 6:30 am and noon.

Officials do not know exactly when the spraying will begin as it is affected by weather conditions but based on park history, spraying will likely occur between May 15th and May 21st.

Once park officials establish a date, the public will be notified on their website and social media as well as physical signage in the area.

SNP will use a naturally occurring bacteria known as BTK.

The bacteria is prevalent in natural ecosystems and not harmful to humans, pets, plants, or most beneficial insects.

The spray does not harm any surfaces and one can easily remove it with soap and water.

Over the past two years, spongy moth numbers have grown quickly leading to the defoliation of large areas of the central section of the park.

Additional defoliation could lead to tree mortality, safety hazards in visitor-use areas, and damaging of forest habitats.

This suppression effort is part of a larger push to slow the growth of spongy moths including over 16,000 acres in Washington and Jefferson National Forests. 

To learn more about spongy moths in SNP, click here.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.