State agricultural inspectors in Washington have begun deploying more than 24,000 gypsy moth traps to determine whether the invasive pest is present in the state.


Depending on what they turn up this year, will determine what the state does in 2010, according to a news release.


"If any moths are out there, we will find them," John Townsend, state trapping coordinator for the Olympia-based Washington State Department of Agriculture, said in a news release. "Our summer moth catches will largely determine if eradication treatments occur in 2010."


The traps will be deployed near "high-risk" areas, such as ports, campsites and residential areas where transient traffic has a higher probability of bringing in the pest.


Because of its 35-year-old intensive trapping program, Washington has been able to stave off a permanent gypsy moth infestation, unlike some of the Northeastern states.


Washington's last eradication treatment was conducted in 2007 in Kent. The largest number of trap catches occurred in 1983 with 1,315; the smallest in 2002 with 17.


Gypsy moths are viewed as one of the worst pests of trees in the United States. An imported pest, it has a host range of more than 500 species. It can weaken or kill plants or trees by defoliating them.


For more information, call the state's gypsy moth hotline at (800) 443-6684 or visit http://agr.wa.gov.