Don't Give the Gypsy Moth a Free Ride!
April 9 , 2005
Don’t help the gypsy moth move further west by giving it a free ride. The gypsy moth is usually spread to new areas by hitchhiking on outdoor articles. Although all life stages can hitchhike, it is usually the egg stage which is transported. Be sure to inspect your camper and other equipment for egg masses or other life stages after camping in infested areas.
The gypsy moth was brought to the united States in 1869 in a failed attempt to start a silkworm industry. Escaping soon after, the gypsy moth has become over the past century, a major pest in the northeastern United States.
Gypsy moth caterpillars are easy to identify, because they possess characteristics not found on other leaf-feeding caterpillars. They have five pairs of blue dots followed by six pair of red dots lining the back. In addition, they are dark-colored and covered with hairs. Young caterpillars primarily feed during the day whereas the older caterpillars feed at night. When present in large numbers, the older caterpillars feed day and night. Young caterpillars spread to new locations by crawling to the tops of trees, where they spin a silken thread and are caught on wind currents.
Gypsy moth undergoes four developmental life stages; these are the egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult. Gypsy moth females lay between 500 to 1,000 eggs in sheltered areas such as underneath the bark of trees. The eggs are covered with a dense mass of tan or buff-colored hairs. The egg mass is approximately 1.5 inches long and 0.75 inches wide. The eggs are the overwintering stage of the insect. Eggs are attached to trees, homes, or any outdoor objects. The eggs hatch in spring into caterpillars.
Adult gypsy moths emerge from the pupae in 10 to 14 days. They are present from July into August. Females have white to cream-colored wings, a tan body, and a two-inch wingspan. Female gypsy moth cannot fly. Males, which are smaller than females, with a 1.5 -inch wingspan, are dark-brown and have feathery antennae. Both the adult female and male can be identified by the inverted V-shape that points to a dot on the wings.
Gypsy moth has only one generation per year. Gypsy moth populations will go through cycles in which the populations will increase again.
The larva or caterpillar is the damaging stage as it eats the leaves of trees in the spring. They can consume tremendous amounts of leaf material. For example, gypsy moth larvae can consume as much as one square foot of leaves per day.
The gypsy moth caterpillar is not a fussy eater. It has a preference for the leaves of deciduous hardwood trees such as maple, elm, and particular oak. Gypsy moth can also feed on apple, alder, birch poplar and willow trees.
Both male and female moth exist only to reproduce once with the male moth flying to find the females who are too heavy to fly. After the females lay their eggs from July to September, depending on location, moth of both sexes then die.