The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the launch of a new outreach campaign, "Your Move Gypsy Moth-Free," designed to stop the accidental spread of gypsy moth by people moving or traveling from moth-infested areas to uninfested areas. APHIS is kicking off the campaign during National Moving Month, which marks the height of the moving season in the United States.

This campaign will give those planning to move the information they need to stop this invasive pest from hitching a free ride on their vehicles or belongings," said Scott Pfister, APHIS' director of forest pests. Transporting the gypsy moth during a move could devastate the trees and shrubs of an uninfested area, making it hard for families to enjoy their new community and natural surroundings. With about 40 million Americans moving each year, National Moving Month is an ideal time to get this message out."

The campaign's goals are to raise awareness about how gypsy moths can devastate America's forests and community landscapes and to teach the public, as well as moving companies, how to prevent the spread of this pest. These outreach efforts will also help the public and moving companies comply with federal law, which requires the inspection of outdoor household items, such as grills and lawn furniture, for gypsy moth egg masses before they are transported from infested areas to uninfested areas. The campaign includes a new website, YourMoveGypsyMothFree.com, a brochure with the inspection checklist, and a free partner toolkit available for organizations to use.

The toolkit contains downloadable outreach materials, including a video, PowerPoint presentation, factsheet, customizable newsletter article, print ads and Web banner ads that link to YourMoveGypsyMothFree.com. APHIS is actively working with partner organizations--including moving companies and associations, environmental and nonprofit organizations, universities and federal and state agencies--to spread this critical message as widely as possible.

Gypsy moth inspections

Keeping gypsy moths from moving or traveling from infested areas is simple: Inspect vehicles and all outdoor household items for gypsy moth egg masses and remove them. The removal can be performed easily with a putty knife, stiff brush or similar hand tool. Egg masses can be disposed of in a container of hot, soapy water or placed in a plastic bag that is then sealed and set in the sun. People moving or traveling can decide to perform the inspection themselves or hire a professional.

Regardless of who completes the inspection, it is required by law that anyone moving from a gypsy moth-infested area to a non-infested area provides an official inspection certificate of all common outdoor household items that could carry the gypsy moth. A completed and signed checklist from the brochure is an official certificate that will satisfy the requirements of all noninfested states.

The gypsy moth has dramatically changed the landscape in 19 states and Washington, D.C., since it was introduced into New England in the late 1860s. Since 1970, 75 million acres in the United States have been defoliated by the gypsy moth. A gypsy moth infestation can defoliate up to 13 million acres of trees in one season if left untreated. Repeated defoliations can kill a tree in two to four years.
 
New infestations are typically caused by gypsy moth egg masses that are accidentally transported by people moving or traveling from an infested area. Female moths can lay their egg masses on nearly any outdoor surface (vehicles, yard tools, playground equipment, outdoor toys, camping gear and like items), and the caterpillars hatch and spread during the spring and summer months.

To learn more about the threat posed by gypsy moths, download the brochure, or access the partner toolkit, please visit YourMoveGypsyMothFree.com.