Plan proposed to contain invasive forest pest affecting East Tennessee

Published 9:44 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

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The Tennessee Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service are proposing an aerial application of spongy moth mating pheromone in Johnson County this spring.
Formerly known as gypsy moth, spongy moth populations have surged in East Tennessee. Surveys conducted in 2022 detected significant moth presence in the region. The goal of this treatment is to disrupt their mating practices to halt population growth.
“The spongy moth is an exotic, invasive insect pest that is one of the greatest threats to Tennessee’s forests,” State Forester David Arnold said. “High populations of this moth can result in widespread tree defoliation and over consecutive years, that can lead to tree decline. This treatment will protect the forest by reducing the population of this invasive pest.”
While oak species are favored, the spongy moth is attracted to a wide variety of trees and therefore has the potential to dramatically affect Tennessee’s forests. Severe spongy moth defoliation is expensive for homeowners who must manage or remove large, dead yard trees. Additionally, the loss of quality hardwoods affects timber value for landowners.
Application of the spongy moth mating pheromone reduces the ability of the male moth to find and mate with the flightless, female moth. This is a common method of controlling spongy moth populations and there is no known impact on humans or other wildlife.
Citizens are invited to an open house on April 4 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. EDT at the Johnson County Courthouse located at 222 W. Main St., Mountain City, to learn more about the proposed treatment. Additional information can be found on the Slow the Spread Foundation’s website at If you have questions about the treatment, please contact Hannah Hollowell, Forest Health Program Specialist, Tennessee Division of Forestry at or 615-837-5439.

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