Gypsy Moth Control


Gypsy Moths are small insects with a ferocious appetite. They'll eat most any type of tree and their spring feeding frenzy can defoliate forests. Though their damaging behavior is most prevalent for 2-3 months each year, the impact of their feeding can be long lasting.

Gypsy moths are not native to North America. Brought to Massachusetts back around 1869, they were imported for the intention of silk farming. Some escaped and the impact of their presence was soon discovered across our countryside. Gypsy moths have a ferocious appetite and combined with a strong ability to reproduce, it didn't take long for them to migrate across our country. Presently they are active as far south as Florida and they continue to migrate through the midwest toward the west coast. They can feed on most any type of tree including oak, apple, beech, birch, willow and hemlock. Though it's rare that any host tree will die as a direct result of gypsy moths, the loss of leaves will indirectly cause other problems. Fungus, disease and other parasitic pests will find damaged host trees leading to stunted growth and ultimately death. Needless to say, the end result of "importing just a few gypsy moths" was never imagined; at this time gypsy moths represent the single most significant threat to our forests.


The gypsy moth develops in four stages:

  1. Egg,
  2. Larvae (caterpillars)
  3. Pupa (transformation stage)
  4. Adult (moth)

Only the larval stages are destructive. Eggs are deposited in a cluster called an “egg mass” from June into August. The oval egg masses vary in size, but are generally about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch wide. Egg masses are covered with buff-colored hairs from the female’s body. Trees, stones, buildings, and most shaded objects are suitable sites for egg deposition. The egg stage passes through the remainder of the summer, fall, and winter. Eggs usually begin to hatch in late April and continue to hatch for about 2 weeks.

Young caterpillars (larvae) are clothed with many hairs and can be carried for considerable distances by the wind. They feed from late April to early July. Full grown caterpillars may be 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long with several pairs of warts along the top of their bodies. The first five pairs of warts are blue; the last six pairs are red.

Gypsy moth caterpillars have a voracious appetite and can cause extensive defoliation of trees. Some favored host trees include: apple, linden, oak, and willow; however, other hardwood species may be attacked. Hemlock, pine, and spruce may be dam- aged by late-stage caterpillars. It is not uncommon to observe large numbers of “migrating” caterpillars crossing roads and on the sides of dwellings and other stationary objects. Migrating caterpillars can stain paint on houses and when handled, their body hairs may irritate the skin of susceptible people.

Caterpillars enter the pupa stage during June, and adult moths emerge after 10 to l4 days. Male moths are brown with blackish bands across the front pair of wings. They can be seen flying about while searching for female moths, especially up and down the trunks of trees. Female moths have white wings with black markings, but do not fly (exception is the Asian Gypsy moth found on the west coast). After mating, the female deposits her eggs. There is only one generation per year. Three years of repeated infestations will kill a tree.

Now that gypsy moths are active in so many states, the goal of eliminating them has pretty much been abandoned. They are here to stay. If you have activity in your community, it's just a matter a "when" they will appear on your property. Fortunately there are a lot of treatment options, which your Family Tree Specialist can go over with you.





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