Gypsy Moth – How to Control Gypsy Moth Naturally (2018)

How to Control Gypsy Moth Naturally

Lymantria dispar also known as a gypsy moth is a moth in the family Erebidae and is believed to be from Eurasia origin. Gypsy moth is an exotic species which made their early origination from Europe and Asia. It was brought to Boston in the year 1869 with an attempt to initiate profitable silk industry. Found throughout the eastern regions of the United States and Canada, gypsy moths have spread many parts of Central America as well. It is considered to be one of the most devastating forest pests in the United States.

There are much latest news about their outbreak in Arbor trees in many parts of eastern America especially Michigan. With the warm temperature set in, it is an alarm for the forest trees because this is the best season for the emergence of the insects. Mid-spring marks the start of gypsy moth caterpillar feeding season. They have the potential to deforest millions of acres. You can see these places covered in dead, chewed leaves with a huge amount of feces. They defoliate trees, leaving trees to vulnerable diseases and other pests that ultimately lead to the devastation of the trees.

1. Identification of gypsy moths

Control Gypsy Moth Naturally


Gypsy moth larvae and caterpillars are often confused with Eastern tent caterpillars and forest tent caterpillar since both these species start with their lifecycle in spring and they are in identical sizes as well. The larvae stage of the gypsy moth makes more damages to the forest. Apparently, after the adult stages, they are not harmful to the plants and trees and rather prefer to live beneath the cloths or your apparels. The adult gypsy moth has a hairy structure with brown to gray marking in their forewings. Their large feather-like antenna is responsible to attract the female adult moths by picking the female pheromone.

One of the surprising features of the gypsy moth is, female adult moths cannot fly and rather crawl on the tree trunk and prefer to stay around the egg masses where it is deposited. An egg mass can hold up to hundred eggs (say about 500 to 1000 eggs at a time). The female moth generally lays eggs in sheltered areas like underneath the bark of the tree, unused car tyres, gutters and few others. The larva or caterpillar stage of the gypsy moth is the most damaging stage as it eats most of the leaves during spring.

They have a high form of hunger and eat almost all the time-devouring considerable amount of leaf materials. One of the major damage caused by the gypsy moth is the forest defoliation which is the main cause of destroying wildlife habitat. This in turn increase the risk of wildfire, affects the water quality and interfere with the locale of the drifting salmon. They have the potential of gulping one square foot of leaves alone in one day which is more damaging to the environment as well as the economy.

Gypsy moth control is often necessary to prevent the damage in the backyards and many urban areas. Even authorities suggest adopting some strategies to control gypsy moth around their properties.  But how to control gypsy moths?

2. How to control gypsy moths?

gypsy moths

If you have hardwood trees and the proud owners of apple, alder or willow trees and if you are the resident in many parts of United States (predominantly Michigan, Virginia or Ohio), then you should be beware of the most defoliating gypsy moth when spring set in. US forest service considers gypsy moth as the most devastating forest pest and a major pest of hardwood trees. Since the infestation of the gypsy moth is considered as the most important problem, the authorities advise the homeowner and public to adopt some program to reduce the population and slow their spread.  When you follow the below-said recommendation, you can definitely help save nature and a mere opportunity to act as a responsible citizen to conserve the forest.

  • Get familiarized with this local pest. Get to know how it looks like and its appearance; about its lifecycle and the general places of its occurrence
  • Entomologists suggest that adult female gypsy moth lays eggs in sheltered places so be familiar with how the egg masses appear and have an open eye in your garden and covered places for its eggs. If you happen to come across any such egg masses, immediately get rid of them.
  • If you are traveling to places that are already infested with gypsy moths, ensure that your vehicle tires don’t contain gypsy moth egg masses or larvae or pupa when you leave the place. Because as already discussed, gypsy moths lay eggs in the auto tyres.
  • Camping is a very common aspect during summer and fall. When you have preparations for camping, avoid carrying firewood for long distance. It is highly recommended to purchase firewood near the camping sites. Similarly, at the end of the camping, it is not advisable to carry back the remaining firewood back home because there are maximum possibilities of these firewood getting infested with gypsy moth during the course of time.
  • When there is pest infestation in your garden, ensure that you keep pest barrier on the trees to prevent the creepy critters from moving around and causing their spread. When they are confined to one place, they are left with no food which leads them to starvation and ultimately it dies resulting in controlling their population.

Besides these recommendations, you can also adopt certain strategies to keep them at a bay or keep them in control if already infested

  • Gypsy moth infestation happens for weeks creating havoc on thousands of trees in your environment. So keep your surrounding as clean as possible. Clear out dead branches, cut trees, and debris as early as possible before this creepy insect starts their lifecycle. Apparently, if you find the egg masses already, don’t make unnecessary delays, destroy them immediately before they hatch.
  • If your trees are susceptible to infestation of gypsy moths, you can consider using Gypsy moth traps. The gypsy moth trap uses pheromone technology that has the potential to capture this creepy crawly and disrupt their lifecycle that is responsible for a large amount of defoliation each year.

Pheromones are chemical substances that are released into the environment that has the characteristics of sex attractants. These substances are released by the female adult moths to attract the male partner. The male insects are attracted towards this chemical but they are deceived by the scent and unable to find the mates. They get trapped in this substances and ultimately die without producing their offsprings thereby the population gets controlled. These traps are an effective weapon for reducing the overall moth caterpillar population during the summer mating seasons.

There are many top moth products like cloth moth traps, pantry moth traps, safe professional moth traps which have got best reviews from customers who have already used the product. For instance, the cloth moth traps attract only the male moths and capture them. Apparently, by capturing the male moths, it restricts them from mating from their female partners. It acts as some form of birth control.

gypsy moths

  • Trichogramma wasps are also effective in keeping the gypsy moth attack under control. This petite creepy insect is a powerful biological control substituent because it has the capability of killing the insect before it makes the damage. They are found to be an efficient destroyer of eggs of more than 200 species of moths and butterflies and many species of cabbage moths, codling moths, and European corn borers. The female Trichogramma is a productive wasp during their existence although it is as short as a fortnight. These wasps inject a single egg into the eggs of the pests. They multiply rapidly and serves as an effective measure to keep the pest under control. Greenhouses and interiorscapes have been successful in employing the wasps. Experiments show that Trichogramma is sixty to ninety-five percent better in dealing with the worms that are left untreated.
  • Try using horticultural or dormant oils when you come across egg masses in your tree barks. The horticultural oil serves as an effective option to control the breed of gypsy moths and these oils have been considered to be the least explored an alternative. Horticultural oils are lightweight oils or petroleum jelly that are vegetable based used as a spray to control the insect and pest infestation.

When these oils are applied to the infected area, it damages the membranes of the exoskeleton thereby leading to suffocation. They have the potential to suffocate the eggs of the insects before they start devouring the leaves. These horticultural oils are eco-friendly products works great for indoors for pests such as aphids, whitefly, mites, and scale. Dormant oils work in the similar way as horticultural oil to control slow soft-bodied insects.  During winter months when plants and trees are dormant, it is highly recommended to use dormant oil to keep the pest under control. Although dormant oil is not efficient to get rid of the creepy insect completely, yet it is one of the most suggested ways to cut off the population and the situation little better. Earlier dormant oils were made of heavy extracts apparently with the recent developments in pests control, dormant oils have become lighter, besides there is not any significant harm caused to the buds when applied. The dormant oils are generally sprayed in late winters or early spring and one of the best-suggested solution that is in use for over a century in commercial orchards.

  • You can control gypsy moths using insecticidal spray. Insecticidal sprays are the most effective way to cut down their population. The biological insecticide used in the gypsy moth spray program is Bacillus thuringiensis. Bacillus thuringiensis is a soil-dwelling bacterium which is generally found in the surface of the plants, these substances have chemical components that make protein which is toxic to insects. This has the ability to control the spread of the insects. Since this chemical is found to be very effective it is been in use for several years from now and used effectively in organic farming. This protein targets only on caterpillars and moths and doesn’t affect any beneficial insects like earthworm, beetles and honey bees.

3. How to get rid of gypsy moth with simple home remedies?

control gypsy moths

One of the best ways to get rid of the pest infestation is to hire professional pest control service, apparently, if you are not interested in hiring such services and want to do something by yourself  (DIY methods) there are some control methods you can try

Terminating the egg masses of the creepy critter

Terminating the egg masses of the creepy critter is the best way to keep the insect at the bay or reduce the population – Once the weather becomes warm and the temperature reaches more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the eggs that have been laid the previous summer is ready to get hatched. The caterpillars that come from these hatched eggs are responsible for the most devastation of the hardwood trees. Apparently, the egg masses should be cleared before it is hatched.

Destroying the egg masses is an important aspect to get rid of the gypsy moth. You can either scrape the egg masses using a knife or sharp object to which it is attached. Apparently while doing this ensure that you don’t cause any damage to the source to which it is attached either the branch or bark of the tree. Or you can try another option. This is to spray oil on the egg mass until it gets soaked. Then it becomes easy to scrape it off.

Sticky barrier bands

A simple and cost-effective way to control caterpillar and another damaging insect for your garden and backyards. This simple to make barrier bands are made with duct tape and waterproof sticky material like tanglefoot or petroleum jelly. When the barks of the trees begin to turn dry after spring sets in, wrap the duct tape around the tree or apply tanglefoot around the tree.

This will make the caterpillars’ slips or slide when they try to make their moves crawling towards the other parts of the tree.  But you need to ensure that there are no spaces between the bands and no spaces should be missed while applying this sticky material. Any gaps or spaces will lead the gypsy moth to slip between the bands and they will start with their defoliation process. There is also a number of products available at Amazon that remains effective even after exposure to heat, cold and moisture. These kinds of the product provide protection for months.

Burlap hiding bands

gypasy moth

With this kind of approach, you can trap and reduce the number of larvae on the trees. When the caterpillar starts growing to say about an inch long, they start with their movement down the trunk to hide from the predators. You can easily trap these creepy crawly with the burlap hiding bands. For this, you need to make a band that is made of burlap long enough to wrap a small portion of a trunk of the tree.

To support the burlap tie a strip in the middle of the burlap so it doesn’t fall. This will look like a two-layered skirt.

Studies reveal that the presence of burlap bands on the tree stems decrease the movement of the gypsy moth. These creepy little insects consider the burlap bands as a resting place and move towards them for resting. Once the tiny insects come to this place, you can collect them from the burlap and destroy. Since these caterpillars contain hairy structure, it may cause irritation when touched with bare hands. So it is high recommendable either to use gloves or forceps to remove this hairy insect. The collected insects are usually killed by placing them in soapy water. Once they are killed you can drain the water and trash the dead insects.

Introducing some form of predators that would kill gypsy moth

Some kind of mammals like a white-footed mouse and the short-tailed shrew love to eat larvae, pupa, and adult gypsy moth. Small animals like chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, and raccoon also love to feed gypsy moth. You can introduce any of these predators to your garden when you feel the infestation is high. This type of approach provides immediate relief to the pest infestation and secure your garden.

Gypsy moths are a periodic problem in the US since ages when they accidentally escaped from cultures while scientists made an attempt to make native silk. Although the insect is a native of Europe and Asia, apparently their population multiplied and spread to many parts of Central America. It has a strong defoliating characteristic and never spare hardwood trees when the warm weather sets in (spring). Apparently, there is a number of prevention control and measures to keep the infestation in control and reduce their population. The above-discussed strategies are quite effective in doing so!

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