18-051-0807

August 2007

Gypsy Moths
Gypsy moths have invaded portions of the United States and Canada from Eurasia. Immature stages (caterpillars) feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs, and defoliate an average of about 4 million acres of hardwood forests and ornamental plantings each year. Fine hairs that cover gypsy moth egg masses, caterpillars, pupae, and adults can cause skin irritation to allergic individuals. There are three races of this insect: European, Asian, and Japanese; all pose a major threat to forest habitats in North America. Originally introduced into Massachusetts in 1869, the European race has now become a major pest in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. Gypsy moth eggs are tolerant of temperature and moisture extremes. The continued introduction and spread of gypsy moths on the North American continent has been aided by the inadvertent transport of eggs by humans on the hulls and riggings of ships, on motor vehicles and campers, as well as on logs, lawn furniture, nursery stock, pallets, and shipping containers. In urban landscapes, low level infestations can be effectively controlled by egg mass removal and use of barrier bands to protect valuable ornamental trees and shrubs. Q. What are gypsy moths? A. Gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar L.), are insects that belong to the Order Lepidoptera, Family Lymantriidae. There are three different races of gypsy moth: the European, Asian and Japanese. All are able to interbreed; but they differ slightly in the size, appearance, and food preferences of the larvae and flight range of the female moths. The caterpillars of this moth feed on the leaves of over 500 different deciduous and coniferous tree and shrub species, but have a particular preference for oak (Quercus spp.) trees. Repeated defoliation stresses trees and can lead to their death. Urban outbreaks of this pest can be an extreme nuisance. Landscape trees and shrubs lose their foliage, Range. Gypsy moths are found in the Northern Hemisphere in the temperate hardwood forests of caterpillars crawl everywhere, and Asia, Europe, North Africa, and North America their droppings rain from the trees. (top, shaded areas). In North America, gypsy moths Female moths deposit their eggs on are established in the northeastern United States and or under almost any sheltered in southeastern Canada (bottom, shaded areas). location. Mature caterpillars tend to look for similar sheltered spots to pupate. Gypsy moths are named not for their appearance, but for the fact that these pests are able to “hitchhike” to new locations when objects with eggs or pupae attached are moved from an infested area. Q. How did gypsy moths get to North America? A. Gypsy moths are native to the temperate regions of Asia, Europe and North Africa. Only the European race has established itself in North America and is restricted to the northeastern portion of the United States and southeastern provinces of Canada. The European race was accidentally introduced into Massachusetts by French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot in 1869, in an attempt to use this moth for silk production. Infestations of Asian and Japanese races of the gypsy moths have been detected and eradicated in the vicinity of numerous Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, and Atlantic seacoast ports.
A Life Cycle That Takes One Year to Complete. (clockwise from upper left) Winter is spent in the egg stage. Caterpillars hatch in mid-spring, grow to 2 inches in length, are covered with hairs, and have 4-5 pairs of blue dots followed by 5-6 pairs of red dots along the back. About 7 weeks later, caterpillars change into pupae, which are about 1 to 1½ inches long, dark brown and lightly covered with hairs. Adult moths emerge after about 2 weeks. After mating, the pale-colored females lay oval-shaped egg masses, covered with hairs from their bodies. The tan colored egg masses may contain up to 1,000 eggs or more.

Q. What do gypsy moths look like? A. Like other moths, these insects have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa and adult (moth). The female moths lay up to 1,000 eggs or more in a tan colored, oval shaped mass, about 1 inch long by ½ an inch wide. The caterpillars have a yellowish head
U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Entomological Sciences Program 5158 Blackhawk Road, APG, MD 21010-5403, DSN 584-3613; CM (410) 436-3613 http://chppm-www.apgea.army.mil/

capsule and a hairy charcoal grey body with 4 to 5 pairs of blue dots and 5 to 6 pairs of red dots along their backs. As the larvae mature the dots on their back may become darker in color and the body may grow up to 2 ½ inches in length. Pupae are smooth, dark brown in color, teardrop shaped and usually 1 to 1½ inches in length. Female gypsy moths are white in color with dark zigzag markings on their wings and have a wingspan of up to 3 inches. Males are smaller, brownish in color and have a wingspan of about 1 ½ inches. Q. Why should I be concerned if there are gypsy moths on my property? A. During years of heavy outbreaks, gypsy moth caterpillars are an extreme nuisance. The caterpillars defoliate trees and shrubs, rain down messy fecal pellets, and crawl on walls, across roads, over outdoor furniture, and sometimes will come inside homes. In wooded areas, dense populations of the caterpillars feed night and day until the forest is stripped of its foliage. Most hardwood tree species will be killed after two successive defoliations. Conifers may die after being defoliated one time. Hairs found attached to all life stages are irritating and may cause itching and skin reactions on allergic individuals. Q. What can I do to prevent damage from gypsy moths on my property? A. Small populations of gypsy moths can be controlled by removing and destroying pupae and egg masses. Look for them on or under tree limbs and trunks, wood piles, buildings, vehicles, trailers, recreational equipment, outdoor furniture, lawn ornaments and any other sheltered locations outdoors. Use a paint scraper or vacuum for removal, then crush or place in a trash receptacle. Simply picking the egg masses off and dropping them on the ground will not kill them. Wear gloves when handling the egg masses or pupae because they are covered with hairs which may cause an allergic reaction. Other things you can do include: • Keeping your yard clean and free of hiding places for pupae and eggs. • Properly fertilize, water, and mulch trees and shrubs (healthy, vigorous plants have a better chance of surviving and regrowing after being defoliated). • Plant species of trees and shrubs that gypsy moth caterpillars do not prefer to eat (caterpillars generally avoid American holly, ash, azaleas, bald cypress, black and honey locust, catalpa, dogwood, eastern redcedar, elderberry, grape, horsechestnut, juniper, Kentucky coffee-tree, mountain laurel, mulberry, rhododendron, spicebush, sweet pepperbush, sycamore, tulip-poplar and viburnum). • Prevent the spread of this pest to your property by inspecting for egg masses on outdoor household articles moved from areas infested with gypsy moths. Q. What can I do if I am faced with a heavy infestation of gypsy moths? A. Contact your Installation Pest Control Activity if you notice high densities of overwintering gypsy moth eggs or caterpillars on your property.

Hitching a Ride. The spread of gypsy moths has been aided by human movement of egg masses and pupae attached to items such as cargo containers (top) and recreational vehicles (bottom, right). Newly hatched caterpillars climb to tree tops, spin silken threads, and ride the wind to “balloon” to new areas (bottom, left).

Chemical Approaches. Large populations of gypsy moth caterpillars may require an insecticide treatment. Do not attempt to treat large trees yourself. The timing and type of any insecticide treatments during outbreak infestations is usually best coordinated using the expertise of the installation’s forestry personnel. Nonchemical Approaches. A combination of tactics works best for protecting small or isolated trees from defoliation. Use of barrier bands, such as commercial double-sided sticky tape, Tanglefoot® or grease will keep large caterpillars from crawling up the trunks of individual trees. Avoid getting any of the sticky material, which can stain or damage the bark, directly on the tree trunk. Burlap bands can be used to capture some of the older caterpillars that utilize shaded areas during the heat of the day. Wrap a piece of burlap cloth around the main tree stem and tie it with a piece of string so that a type of skirt is formed. Check the covering daily and remove the caterpillars hiding in the burlap. Remove bands at the end of summer to prevent any girdling of the tree.

Mechanical Control. Removing gypsy moth egg masses with a paint scraper during the winter months will help minimize or prevent infestations in the spring (left). Using sticky bands on tree trunks in the summer can help physically trap or prevent caterpillars from reaching the canopy (center). Burlap bands can provide a hiding place for caterpillars during the heat of a summer day (right). Banding can be effective on isolated trees when regularly checked during the summer. Neither sticky nor burlap bands are effective against caterpillars that “balloon” in the spring.

References: Grafton, E. and Webb, R. Homeowner’s Guide to Gypsy Moth Management. West Virginia University Extension Service. [Fact Sheet] [Online] Available from: http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/pi/pdf/GMguide.pdf [Accessed July 2007]. USDA APHIS-Plant Protection and Quarantine. Gypsy Moth: Slow the Spread Program. April 2003. [Fact Sheet] [Online] Available from: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/plant_health/content/printable_version/fs_phgmprogress.pdf [Accessed July 2007].
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Tanglefoot is a registered trademark of The Tanglefoot Company, 314 Straight Avenue, S.W., Grand Rapids, MI 49504-6485

The information in this fact sheet is intended as guidance only. Use of trademarked names does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army but is intended only to assist in identification of a specific product. Original images from: USDA Forest Service; Missouri Department of Agriculture; University of West Virginia Extension Office; Kenosha County Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Department, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Purdue University Extension; Manfred Mielke, USDA Forest Service, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Forestry Archives (both accessed from Bugwood.org).