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Traps help track plant pests

Summer is a popular time for insects to make their presence known in a negative way. One such pest is the spongy moth, which feeds on more than 300 species of shrubs and trees—oak trees, in particular. To help combat the spongy moth and other plant pests, the Missouri Department of

Agriculture Plant Industries team set traps last month and will continue to monitor them throughout the summer.

“Plant pests can hitchhike to new locations through a number of avenues,” said State Entomologist Rosalee Knipp. “They can burrow in untreated firewood and attach themselves to outdoor surfaces. Our team works hard to ensure Missouri’s plant industry remains protected throughout the year, and no invasive species make their way into our state.”

The spongy moth arrived in the U.S. in 1869 and has primarily affected the East Coast. Surveying helps MDA monitor for spongy moths and allow its team to pinpoint locations if the insects were to enter Missouri. The Show-Me State has approximately 12.5 million acres of oak that could be severely damaged or killed if infested with spongy moths, which would greatly impact the state’s forestry economy.

Temporary traps are set in May each year. The traps are checked by MDA staff throughout the summer and are removed in August. Spongy moth traps are orange and triangular, and each trap includes a pheromone lure that attracts male spongy moths. The pheromone travels a short distance, only attracting moths near the trap. Traps are tied around the trunks of oak trees across the state, from the southwest corner to the northwest corner of Missouri. Nearly 3,200 traps are set out each summer, both in urban and rural settings.

MDA also watches closely for the spotted lanternfly, a leafhopper native to Asia. The spotted lanternfly feeds on the sap of over 70 plant species, including grape, apple, hops, oak, walnut, maple and ornamental plants. Tree of heaven, an invasive plant in Missouri, is a favored host.

Spotted lanternflies, like spongy moths, are hitchhikers in their egg mass stage. Look for spotted lanternfly and spongy moth egg masses on vehicles, trees and other outdoor surfaces.

MDA entomologists say Missourians can help stop the spread of these pests in several ways:
• If you happen to see a spongy moth or spotted lanternfly egg mass when it is dormant during late fall, winter or early spring, scrape or smash the mass and report the sighting to MDA.
• Don’t move untreated firewood to new places. Source firewood where it will be burned or buy certified, heat-treated firewood before traveling.
• Source plants and seeds responsibly.

If you suspect an invasive species, contact MDA’s Plant Pest Program at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Find details about other invasive species that could cause harm to Missouri plants at

Read more of the June/July 2024 Today's Farmer Magazine HERE.

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