(WFRV) – In Wisconsin, a small plane will help spread a naturally occurring soil bacteria in an effort to slow the spread of an invasive species.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), it plants to treat certain areas in western counties for spongy moth. The treatment is expected to start in mid to late May.

Residents are told to expect a loud, low-flying plane as early as sunrise. The plane will spray Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk), which is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that kills spongy moth caterpillars feeding on treated canopy foliage.

Btk is reportedly not toxic to people, bees, pets or other animals. However, those with severe allergies may want to stay inside during nearby treatment applications.

The spraying depends on favorable weather conditions. Calm winds, no precipitation or high humidity is preferred.

Spongy moths are described as non-native pests that defoliate different kinds of trees and plants during their caterpillar stage. In western Wisconsin, the spongy moth populations are reportedly low or beginning to build.

The spongy moth is well-established in the eastern two-thirds of Wisconsin, where it has become a periodic public nuisance and forest-damaging pest. DATCP will use effective and environmentally-sound aerial treatment methods to slow its spread into the relatively uninfested western part of the state, thereby limiting its impacts.

Michael Falk, DATCP Forest Entomologist

Officials also mentioned that the caterpillars shed their skins multiple times, and those skins can irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system in humans.

Additionally, in late June to mid-July, planes will spray a mating disruptor that target adult male moths to stop their ability to find female moths. This disruptor is reportedly organic and biodegradable.

Maps of the treatment areas can be viewed here. The following counties are scheduled to get Btk aerial treatments:

  • Chippewa
  • Crawford
  • Dunn
  • Grant
  • La Crosse
  • Lafayette
  • Rusk

No additional information was provided. Local 5 will update this story if more details are released.