Like other pests and insects, there are four stages of growth in gypsy moths. They start in the form of eggs, with females laying an average of 500 to 1,000 eggs. There is a dense mass of hair that provides a protective covering for these eggs. This is the stage where the insect overwinters. When they hatch, they transform into a caterpillar, which is also the point at which it is at its most destructive. They have an average length of 2.5 inches. To add, they have blue and red dots in their dark body, which is covered with hair. Once they transition into a pupa, they are dark brown and they develop an outer shell. After this, they transform into full maturity.
Gypsy Moth’s Habitat
The forest is where you will often see gypsy moths. They will appear in different parts of the tree and will have several impacts on the host depending on its specific stage. For the eggs, you can often find them in houses, outdoor objects, and plants. They hatch in spring. When they transform into caterpillars, on the other hand, they are common on the top of trees. They feed in the day when they are young and in the night when they are old. The pupal stage, meanwhile, happens in the summer. At this point, they thrive in places where they find temporary shelter, such as crevices of trees. From July to August, they will transform into full adulthood
Identifying Gypsy Moth’s Damage
Gypsy moths are common in trees. Among others, conifers are some of the most vulnerable to this pest because after defoliation, they no longer produce another flush. This makes the damages severe and irrevocable. Pines, redwood, cypress, and spruce will suffer the most because they can no longer grow new leaves. Aside from these, other host trees include apples, oaks, sweetgums, willow, poplar, and hawthorn, among others.
Pay attention to the following signs, which will be an easy way to tell if gypsy moths are present and affecting trees:
- Defoliation is perhaps the most common symptom. The tree will have falling leaves. In the worst situations, the defoliation will be too much, leaving nothing but the structure of the tree. At this point, it will also be bare and dry because it no longer gets the nutrients necessary for its survival.
- You will also see that other parts of the tree are dying, not just the leaves. The twigs will be darker than the usual and the outer bark may start to peel as a sign of damage.
Results of Infestation
When gypsy moth larvae feed on trees, this can cause severe defoliation. In turn, the tree will become weak, and eventually, it will die. There are some trees that may not die, but the results will still be devastating, with one of the most common being stunting. This means that the tree grows smaller than the usual, which is indicative of the lack of nutrients that it needs for its healthy growth. It leads to ecological and economic impact, which are both serious. Defoliation also makes a tree susceptible to other pests, stress, and health problems.
How to Get Rid of Gypsy Moths
Natural and Organic Solutions
Thinking of how to get rid of gypsy moths in a manner that is natural and safe? Below is a short list of some of the solutions you might want to consider:
- When it comes to mechanical control, one of the best is the use of barrier bands. It provides both foliage protection and population reduction. However, for the best outcomes, be sure to place it before the hatching of the eggs. See to it that barriers have a width of at least two inches and must be made from rigid materials. It should also have a strong adhesive so that it will stay on the tree.
- You might also want to consider using bacillus thuringiensis, which is common when the infestation is already severe. This is a pesticide, but it uses biological ingredients, and not harsh chemical components. Be sure to pay attention to leaf coverage for the best results.
- Encouraging natural predators will also be a big help. Among others, beneficial birds are some of the best, which include woodpecker, chipping sparrow, crow, catbird, and nuthatch, among others. Beetles and wasps will also make excellent picks for natural predators.
- Habitat manipulation is also an excellent way to reduce their population, and eventually, total elimination. Start with planting cultivars that resist the growth of gypsy moths. Improving tree health is also necessary, such as pruning branches that are already showing visible signs of damage.
- It will also help to encourage the presence of nucleopolyhedrosis virus. Several studies in the past note that such virus has a beneficial effect in trees where gypsy moths are present. This virus is prevalent in areas where there is generous rain during the spring months.
- Keeping the place free from vegetative debris and decaying plant matter is not only a preventive measure, but will also keep their population in check. Do not give them a place to thrive and make it easy to spot their presence.
Using chemicals needs extreme caution and professional guidance because they ate toxic for the environment and humans. Some of the most popular are those that contain acephate and diflubenzuron. Aside from the correct application, the right timing is also critical to yield the highest level of effectiveness in using pesticides for the elimination of gypsy moths.
How to Prevent Gypsy Moths
One of the best preventive measures is to search for egg masses in host plants early on. Do this before hatching, which means that you can eliminate the pests before they even become destructive. Commonly, it is in July when the female moths lay its eggs. Search for the cluster of eggs and remove them manually. It is also important to keep the surroundings clean. Remove any debris or decaying vegetation that can serve as shelter for the gypsy moth. Also, take care of the tree so that it will be less susceptible to infestation.