A year after tree-devouring gypsy moths blazed what one official called a "historical" trail of destruction in McHenry County, the county and 15 other local governments are teaming up to double past efforts aimed at halting the pest in its tracks.
Under a plan outlined before a county board committee Tuesday, the governments will spend about $200,000 - four times as much as a year ago - to spray about 3,500 acres over the next two weeks with a species specific pesticide aimed at eradicating the insect while still in its caterpillar stage.
"This is our window of opportunity," Deputy McHenry County Administrator John Labaj said Tuesday.
The moth, which slowly has been spreading across the United States since the late 1800s, typically will not kill the trees in which it lives. But it will devour its leaves - as much as one square foot a day - leaving wide swathes of trees defoliated.
Last year, the county on its own spent about $50,000 to spray 1,700 acres, but it was not enough to prevent a particularly bad infestation that left hundreds of trees across the county without leaves.
Among the hardest hit areas was the east side of Lake in the Hills.
"We even had to hire tree climbers to get up in the (tree) canopy to remove them," said county board member Paula Yensen, a former Lake in the Hills village trustee. "It somehow got out of control last year."
This year, the village hopes to keep the situation under control by pitching in on the spraying effort. It will be the first time the village has used spraying to control the moth, said Scott Parchutz, superintendent of public properties.
The spraying, done from low-flying helicopters, is not harmful to humans, pets or wildlife, but it can be sticky.
Labaj said it could take weeks before officials know how well the expanded spraying works.
For more information on the gypsy moth, spaying and a map of what areas will be sprayed, visit co.mchenry.il.us/common/countyBrd/Moth/2009GypsyMoth.pdf.