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Aerial spraying for cankerworms to begin

Monday - 4/14/2014, 5:22am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Some areas of Fairfax County are about to undergo aerial spraying in an effort to get rid of fall cankerworm caterpillars.

County forest pest program coordinator Troy Shaw says they're native to the area, but expected to cause an infestation in only a small part of the county.

"We've seen them in outbreak situations only in Mount Vernon District, Lee District and a little bit in Mason District," he says.

See a map of the spraying area and learn more here.

But when there is an infestation, it's bad news.

Thousands hang down by silk threads, "invading patios and even inside homes," Shaw says. They not only defoliate trees, but "draw on a lot of the built-up food reserves that the tree has."

The county will use the spray BT, which Shaw says is safe for people and animals, calling it "one of the few materials that's actually been tested on humans."

Not all the residents are convinced: One woman says, "I think if it's gonna kill the canker ... it's gonna kill other things."

Most are fine with it, though: "I can't wait until the spray comes out of the sky and I have no more cankerworms," another woman says.

Spraying is expected to start the last week in April and take about three days. The county says residents can arrange for a heads-up.

WTOP's Lori Lundin contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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