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Gypsy Moth: 3 Basic Facts and 7 Methods to Get Rid of them

Gypsy moth on branch

It is about the time when a disease attacked the traditional silk moth in North America in the 1860’s. The cotton industry was sinking. With the intention of developing the silk industry, a person named E. Leopold Trouvelot brought various species of moths for experiments from France and kept them in his home under protected conditions. The species also included gypsy moth’s eggs. The number of gypsy moth caterpillar increased tremendously when some of them escaped and spread through the wing. They became so common in Medford Massachusetts that trees used to be all covered with them. They created a real trouble for the villagers by making the plants and trees almost disappeared. By 1941, it had become common in the north-eastern United States. Gypsy moths have now spread to other parts of the United States and even in Europe.

Basic Facts about Gypsy Moth

1. Appearance and SizeGypsy moth sitting on the branch in the night

Male and female can be differentiated with their distinctive features. They both do not look same. Male gypsy moths are smaller in size with the length of less than 1 inch while female gypsy moths have the length of around 2 inches. Gypsy moth larvae can reach the length more than 2 inches. With the dark saw-toothed patterns on the wings, adult females are white in color, and adult males are brownish-gray. Females have light colored dense hair on their head. Distinctive color patterns appear during their larval stage, with eleven pairs of red and blue bumps. Larvae have tassels like hair all around the body.

2. Reproduction and Life Cycle

Males, having the intention to mate, look for females by flying in the zigzag pattern. However, if a female gypsy moth wants to attract a male, she discharges a chemical substance called pheromone. Females lay egg masses that can contain 300 to 500 eggs. They use buff-colored hairs to cover the egg mass. Three developmental stages undertake in the life cycle of gypsy moths. Eggs laid on the surfaces of trees, rocks, fences. Caterpillars after being hatched from the eggs spin silken thread for shelter. It undergoes the process of molting almost five times before becoming a pupa. It takes six weeks to develop from caterpillars to pupae. Gypsy moth pupae do not move and like to reside under barks or sheltered areas. Gypsy moths do not stay in pupa stage for much long and turn adults after 7-15 days in midsummer.

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3. Behavior and Habits

Hardwood trees are gypsy moths’ number 1 priority. They are not selective about the trees and can feed on almost 300 types of trees. You can see the eggs on oaks, apple, some poplars, willow, alder and hawthorn trees. Gypsy moth caterpillar is more dangerous than the adults as they can defoliate trees by feeding on all its trees. They attack the host trees as soon as leaves start to come out. Larvae found on the treetops, but older larvae move down the trees to seek shelters and go back up in the trees to when hungry. Females of European gypsy moths do not fly while the females of Asian gypsy moth do fly.

Gypsy Moth Damage

Gypsy moth caterpillars cause devastating effects on trees. They are notorious for their heavy infestation. Their voracious appetite makes them continuously feed on leaves the whole day. Caterpillars are hatched from the eggs in the early spring when leaves are starting to appear. They outburst and spread on the trees like a disease. They defoliate the host trees up to the extent where they can die. Severe defoliation, when added to the bad weather conditions and disease attacks, can stop the trees’ growth. They also open a way for fungus and other opportunistic insects to take advantage of trees that also put the life of trees at risk.

How to Get Rid of Gypsy Moth?

We all are aware of the impact of trees on our lives. We just cannot let them die. We need to get rid of these nasty gypsy moths before they cause some serious problems to trees. There are so many solutions that we can get our trees safe from these insects. Following items can help you make your trees safe from caterpillars.

1. Duct Tape and Tanglefoot

Caterpillars cannot obviously jump on the trees to reach on the leaves; they have to crawl the whole tree to do this. You can stop them reach their destination by wrapping the tree with the duct tape. Only duct tape does not stop them there. Sticky tanglefoot on the duct tape will stop them right there. We need duct tape because Tanglefoot is not good for trees as well. They will start accumulating on the bottom of duct tape. In this way, you can remove them from your trees.

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One of the best available duct tapes are;

  • ProTapes Pro Duct 100 PE-Coated Cloth Economy Duct Tape

ProTapes Pro Duct 100 PE-Coated Cloth Economy Duct Tape is featured with very comfortable stuff and easily tearable. Specifically for outdoor activities, this product tape is not affected by any weather, and it is highly adhesive. All of this is just perfect to seal a place with its quality of super stickiness.

Properly wrap the duct tape all around the trees in your garden and apply some tanglefoot on the duct tape. Its power to stick on the tree is high. It is easy-to-use tree care product.

  • Tanglefoot Tree Insect Barrier Tub

Tanglefoot Tree Insect Barrier Tub is a certified product specially designed to work for gypsy moths or other damaging insects for the trees. It is super sticky and doesn’t get dried. Its weather resistant quality makes it work for all the seasons long.

Once you have wrapped the tree with duct tape, now apply the ‘Tanglefoot tree insect barrier’ on the duct tape. It is also a long lasting and makes your tree insect free for all the seasons.

2. Burlap Folded Strips

Folded burlap strips allow caterpillars to hide under them. After some time check the strips and collect the hidden insects and remove them. Have a look at the following products for this purpose.

  • 4″ x 100 yards Burlap Roll

These strips are not adhesive. You need to tie the strips off. This is 4 inches wide and very convenient. Its edges are not finished and specially made to wrap around the trees.

  • Rope King ST-300 Sisal Twine

This is all natural and designed for the gardening application. Tie it in the same ways as burlap strips around the tree. It serves as the assistance to the burlap strips as it is used to tie the burlap strips.

3. Gypsy Moth Traps

You can use moth traps when gypsy moths are active for mating. This is especially for adult moths to trap them and stop them from reproducing. It is effective in the duration from late April to late September. This works as an attractant same as a pheromone. You need to place it on the tree and where its smell can spread. It can be placed or hung. One of the effective traps include;

  • SpringStar Gypsy Moth Trap

This does not contain any pesticides and is a safe trap. This is easy to use and powerful enough to attract the gypsy moths. Specifically designed to avoid the use of harmful pesticides.

  • Pantry Gypsy Moth Trap

This is safe and non-toxic moth trap. The lure works effectively and attracts the moths. When moths approach it, they get stuck on the trapped surface and die. Replace the trap if it has got enough moths stuck on it.

  • Gypsy Moth Trap

Disturbing the life cycle of gypsy moth is the main purpose of gypsy moth traps. The product offers two traps and two lures in it. One lure is to put in one trap. This works for 4 to 6 weeks. Swing it or place it on a stand near the tree.

4. Search and Destroy Egg Masses

Female gypsy moths mostly lay eggs in July. You can find egg masses everywhere in the trees or even on the patio furniture. Early detection of eggs location is necessary. Before spring when the eggs are hatched, scrape off these eggs and be careful not to damage the tree bark.

5. Accelerate the Spread of Virus Fatal to Gypsy Moths

Caterpillars are susceptible to nucleopolyhedrovirus. A caterpillar affected with this virus is found hanging in e ‘v’ shape on the trees. Those who come near them also get the virus so if you see any caterpillar hanging like this, don’t remove it. Let the others get the virus and die.

6. Encourage Birds to Visit Your Property

Caterpillars are the favorite food of some birds like chipping sparrow, robin, tanager, vireo, and woodpecker. Attract them to your property and offer them their food.

【Read more about Woodpecker】

7. Hiring a Professional Exterminator to Spray from the Ground

Spraying insecticide is always an option. It kills so many other insects with gypsy moths but keeps that in mind that you can get your pets in danger too. Take all the precautionary measures before you get your place sprayed with insecticide.

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