Introduced to the United States as a part of a silk-making experiment in 1869, the Gypsy moth is the European nuisance called out for being one of our most devastating forest pests. The males are brown with dark brown patterns on their wings while the females are off-white with dark saw tooth patterns on their wings. After their introduction to the US, the Gypsy moth adapted quickly and developed a taste for hundreds of different tree species. They enjoy dining on apple, pine, spruce, and mountain ash, however, oak and aspen trees are their favorites.
What’s the Problem with Gypsy Moths?
They’re Greedy: The biggest problem we have with Gypsy moths is their greed. They eat selfishly and voraciously with the ability to completely defoliate entire trees. In fact, one Gypsy moth caterpillar can eat up to 1 square foot of greenery per day.
Their Growth: Plaguing Northern America, the Gypsy moth’s population from year to year is unpredictable. Infestation numbers have been recorded in the past, and can occur again without warning. This is due to them having very few natural enemies to keep their numbers under control.
Death of Trees: An onslaught of defoliation can make the trees weak and susceptible to disease. The trees can die, which can alter the lifespan of dependent wildlife and devastatingly impact our forest.
What Can You Do?
Check Your Trees for Cocoons: The Gypsy moth goes through 4 stages: Egg, larva, cocoon and moth. From early to mid-July, the moth is in the cocoon stage. Frequent monitoring of your trees for cocoons will help you eradicate them and stop a possible infestation.
Keep Your Trees Healthy: You can also help by keeping your trees strong, since weaker trees will suffer more damage if it is attacked by Gypsy moths. So, improve the health of your trees by pruning dead branches often, and keeping the soil fertile with natural mulches.
Spray Them: Spraying natural pesticides may help control the number of Gypsy moths.
Introduce Natural Enemies: Birds, such as robins, starlings, and blue jays, dine on caterpillars and moths. Introduce these birds to your area by building birdhouses and feeders in your trees.
The Gypsy moth has been steadily increasing its range to include the entire northern United States. They have been plaguing states that includes Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina. Their resilience and adaptability has convinced many scientists that they are here to stay. However, their numbers can be controlled as greater awareness is learned and attention is paid to trees susceptible to the feeding frenzy of the Gypsy moth.