A lot of insects are helpful for our land and environment, but there are just as many that are equally if not more harmful. Gypsy moths are one such insect that can wreak havoc on your property and the entire neighborhood if an infestation is allowed to get out of hand. Today we will touch on gypsy moths, what they like to eat, and how to get rid of them if you do run across them on your property.
What Is A Gypsy Moth?
The Lymantria dispar, also known as the gypsy moth, is an invasive insect that can lay waste to trees and shrubs in a season or less. This bug starts out as an egg and then grows into a furry caterpillar. Once it cocoons, it then transforms into a dusty-colored moth. Female adult gypsy moths are white in color with dark stripes that flow over the wings. They also have a 2-inch wingspan, but can only fly over short distances. Male gypsy moths have wings that are brownish grey in color and have a wingspan of about 3/4ths of an inch. They can fly much further than females.
Why Should You Worry About Gypsy Moth Caterpillars?
While most caterpillars are harmless or simply nibble on leaves, Gypsy moth caterpillars are actually a menace to hardwood trees. They love the wood and are known to consume upward of 300 different species of tree. They love popular, oaks, alder, and apple trees, but all hardwood trees are at risk. It takes Gypsy moth caterpillars about a year to complete a full lifecycle starting out from an egg and ending as a fully grown Gypsy moth. The danger of a Gypsy moth caterpillar infestation is that they have the ability to defoliate a tree completely. This will most often result in extra stress on a tree and if the winter is around the corner, it may even result in tree death.
Gypsy moth larvae usually hatch in early spring and will start feeding on the new leaves that tend to sprout from trees during this season. Because they often start eating the leaves at the top of the tree and then move down, it can be difficult to spot defoliation before it becomes a serious problem. As the caterpillar gets older it will move up and down the tree to feed which will allow you to spot them, but often it is already too late for the infected tree.
Can Gypsy Moth Damage Kill Your Trees?
Defoliation is never good for a tree, but it does not always mean that the tree will die. A healthy hardwood tree that has been ravaged by Gypsy moth caterpillars may look like it’s on its last branch, but in most cases, it will produce another set of leaf buds. This re-flushing will generally occur towards the middle or end of the summer months and should provide enough energy for your tree to survive through the winter. It is important to note that defoliation does cause stress on a tree and if your tree is suffering other types of stress such as disease or drought, it may result in tree death. Defoliation by gypsy moth caterpillars also weakens the tree which can make it susceptible to other pests such as fungus and rot. Softer wood trees such as pine, spruce, and fir typically are not able to withstand defoliation. These trees have a late budding cycle which prevents them from re-flushing in time to protect themselves from the winter frost.
What Should You Do If You Suspect An Infestation
Spotting an infestation early is the best way to save the trees in your yard and your neighborhood. The first order of business should be to contact a pest control company such as Prime Pest Control to have your trees and landscape professionally evaluated. Trying to treat Gypsy moth infestation on your own can be difficult. If you notice a lot of caterpillars with hair and a massive amount of frass on the ground around the trees in your yard or neighborhood, chances are you are dealing with a gypsy moth outbreak. You can also look for egg masses on the trunks of trees, under leaves, on shrubs, or any other shaded and moist area. The best time to find the eggs is at the very start of spring, around mid-April. If you can catch the eggs before they hatch, you can prevent the damage that comes from a Gypsy moth infestation.
Natural Gypsy Moth Prevention
It is difficult to get rid of Gypsy moth caterpillars once their infestation sets in. The best way to prevent damage to your trees is through prevention and by maintaining proper tree health. You can also encourage predators of the Gypsy moth to move onto your property to pick off the pesky pest before they can gain a foothold. There are some birds and wasps that love to feast on Gypsy moths. You can attract them to your property by providing a comfortable place for them to live and also by not using broad-spectrum insecticides.
How To Deal With A Gypsy Moth Infestation
The gypsy moth is one of the most damaging insects that can invade any tree-bearing property. Not only does it place a danger to your own trees, it also puts those on the adjacent properties at risk. This invasive moth has been making its way across the country since the mid-’80s and can now be found in just about every area. A serious infestation can cause the Gypsy moth population to become so dense that all the trees in a neighborhood can be completely defoliated in a relatively short period of time.
Working with professional pest control services will allow for special eradication measures to be used such as the application of Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacteria will kill the Gypsy moth larva without harming the tree or local environment. Another common treatment professional pest services will employ is eco-friendly tree banding. With this method, burlap and tree-safe sticky paste is used to capture larvae and smaller caterpillars as they move up and down the tree to feed. Egg mass removal is the most effective method of Gypsy moth control if they can be spotted prior to hatching. For more information on how we can help, give us a call at (647) 372-0698 today.