Controlling gypsy moths | Living the Country Life

Controlling gypsy moths

It's a major invasive pest of hardwood trees
Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin

An enemy of many hardwood tree species is the gypsy moth. The caterpillar eats the tree leaves and if the defoliation is severe enough, the tree becomes stressed and weak.

The male gypsy moth is brownish in color, and the female is white with black chevrons on her wings.  It’s interesting to note that the female doesn’t fly. She emerges from the pupal stage heavy with unfertilized eggs, and stays put until a male finds her.

Andy Roberts is an entomologist at Virginia Tech University. He’s working on an effort to control the gypsy moth’s advancement to other parts of the country. He says the egg masses are pretty distinctive, and that’s what the homeowner should target.

"It’s an elongated, kind of brownish, tawny-brown, buff-colored hairy mass of eggs, and that’ll be plastered onto the side of the tree typically, or up on the limbs or something," says Roberts. "A good homeowner treatment is to spray that with dormant oil that’s used on some insects. When they’re in a dormant stage you spray them with this oil, and it essentially suffocates them."

Encourage birds to your property because they love to dine on gypsy moths. If you don’t mind having mice around, Roberts says they’re another excellent predator.

But sometimes, it takes a massive effort to get rid of them.

"Most areas that typically will have gypsy moth will have some kind of cooperative program where a community, municipality, or county can work with a state or federal agency and they’ll do a cost-share thing where the state will come in and do the treatment with some type of insecticide," says Roberts. "Those kinds of organized things typically spring up in areas where gypsy moth is considered generally infested."

Learn more:

Ways a homeowner can control the gypsy moth

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