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Controlling gypsy moths

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

Tree-munching menace

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Radio interview source: Donna Leonard, forest entomologist, USDA Forest Service

So far we've not had any signs of gypsy moths in my neck of the woods. But, if you draw a line from Minnesota down to North Carolina, a good area northeast of that has had problems with them. The caterpillars munch on hundreds of tree species, but oaks are their favorite. If stressed enough, the trees will die.

Donna Leonard is an entomologist with the USDA Forest Service and says there's no mistaking this critter. The gypsy moth caterpillar is large and hairy, about the size of your little finger.

"It's mostly black but running down its back it has a series of raised bumps that are colored," Leonard says. "There are five blue spots starting at the head, and then there are six pairs of raised red spots on the rear end of the insect. They're hard to miss when they're full grown."

The moth is rather plain. The female is white with black stripes and the male is brown with big, feathery antennae. The females lay their eggs on things such as lawn furniture, vehicles, and nursery stock. This ability to hitchhike makes the gypsy moth a constant threat.

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