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Fairfax County to launch aerial attack against inchworms

Friday - 2/15/2013, 12:28pm  ET

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The worms are believed to be killing maple, hickory and oak trees, as well as foliage. (Thinkstock)

Residents haven't noticed inchworm issue

WTOP's Kristi King reports

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Assault on inchworms may be necessary to help trees

Mike Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland

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WASHINGTON - Some creepy-crawly pests are becoming so prevalent in the D.C. area, according to officials, that they're going to be taken out from above.

The Washington Examiner reports Fairfax County will use a helicopter to drop pesticide on 2,000 acres near Franconia and Mount Vernon in order to annihilate inchworms.

The aerial attack will cost $200,000, and will be followed by another $26,000 ground-based attack on 200 acres. Both are expected to occur around April.

The worms are believed to be killing maple, hickory and oak trees, as well as foliage. Troy Shaw, coordinator of Fairfax County's forest pest management program, tells the Examiner the worms are "a huge nuisance issue."

The Tysons Corner Patch says the ground treatment also will kill gypsy moths.

The pesticides used against the worms aren't typically harmful to humans or pets, Shaw says, although butterflies and larvae may be in danger. He says people outside during the aerial drop should quickly wash off the substance if it gets on them.

The inchworm issue is news to some area residents, including two who tell the Examiner they haven't seen much damage from the insects.

Those living in the areas to be targeted will receive letters with the time and dates of the project as it gets closer. Patch says public meetings will be held on the issue, and residents will have a chance to opt out.

Mike Raupp, a professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, says the stress of heat pollution and other factors that urban environments levy on trees makes the aerial assault necessary.

"When we have things like maple trees and ash trees and elm trees in urban environments they tend to be stressed," says Raupp. "If you add on top of this the stress of something like a spring or fall cankerworm that's shredding those leaves, it can push them over the edge and make them more susceptible to lethal pests, like boring insects."

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