Why Are Gypsy Moth Infestations a Problem?

Summer is just around the corner and warm weather brings more than just short sleeves and longer days. The seasonal shift reawakens animals, plants, and insects of all kinds; while many are essential to our ecosystem, a few can cause serious damage.

Gypsy moths are a widespread pest that has infested Luzerne and Lackawanna county since 1933 and has since spread south and westward. Though moths may seem harmless, this invasive species has had devastating effects on our foliage.

If you suspect you may have gypsy moths on your property, here are a few things you should know to protect yourself and your property.

Gypsy Moth Infestation- Top 7 Dangers & What to Do- can be very destructive to our landscaping

Gypsy Moth Danger

In 1869, gypsy moths, or Lymantria dispar, were brought to Massachusetts to evaluate their silk production. From that time to the present, they have spread, defoliating a million or more forest areas annually.

Gypsy moths on their own don’t seem like much of a threat, but they don’t just lay one egg. They can leave egg masses just about anywhere and each mass contains between 400-600 eggs. Hatching can turn into a big problem quickly. These moths favor hardwood trees. They cause extensive damage to backyards and urban areas. They infest larger areas and cause mass destruction.

While natural predators do exist, like birds and small mammals, and try to quell the population, it is not enough. The gypsy moth population has grown exponentially, and it is getting harder to stop them.

How Do I Identify a Gypsy Moth?

Gypsy moths are most destructive in their caterpillar form. They are two inches long at fully grown, and they are very hairy. Caterpillars have five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red, typically. When they transform into moths, the males are grey, hairy insects, while the females are white. Though the females have wings, they do not fly, and they have black, wavy markings on their wings.

Females typically deposit their eggs during July overwinter, and the eggs hatch the following spring. As the gypsy moth larvae hatch, they feed on trees in the night and maneuver into the bark during the day.

If you want to keep gypsy moths from destroying your backyard and taking over your property, here are seven tips.

1. Keep your Lawn Clean.

Gypsy moths like to lay their eggs on multiple surfaces. Aside from susceptible host trees, they will house themselves in debris, on stumps, and other unused items. If it is a flat surface, gypsy moths will lay their eggs on it. The best way to keep them from getting cozy is to keep your yard clear of enticing areas.

2. Keep An Eye Out For Egg Masses In Your Yard.

Though it’s important to remain vigilant when keeping pests out, it is impossible to remove everything from your backyard. The next best thing is to keep on the lookout for egg masses. Check woodpiles, stone walls, and lawn furniture often. Should you spot egg masses, scrape them off, carefully, and douse them with boiling water. It’s not enough to just remove them. Also, be cautious when removing them; make sure they do not touch your skin.

3. Check Your Car

So, you’ve been keeping an eye on your yard and you haven’t spotted one gypsy moth mass. There are other areas you may not have considered. Believe it or not, egg masses can be found on your car. Also, check your house siding, sheds, or other structures. Remove the egg masses in the same way as described above to put an end to them.

4. Plant Different Trees

Another way to discourage gypsy moths from invading your property is to plant trees they are less likely to go for. These invasive species prefer hardwood. The best alternative would be to plant other trees and plants. Ash, locus, dogwood, sycamore, balsam fir, and mountain laurels are less likely to attract gypsy moths.

5.  Minimize Contact

Should you have to deal with this unfortunate pest, be very careful. Many people are allergic to gypsy moths and touching them can cause a serious reaction. If you are experiencing an infestation, be sure to wear long sleeves when leaving the house and take steps to dry your clothes inside. Additionally, wear gloves when handling them. Should you come into contact with them, use the proper ointments like Cortisone to stop the reaction.

Gypsy Moth Infestation: Top 7 Dangers & What to Do- watch for egg masses on trees and cars

6. Rely On Birds, Wildlife, And Natural Causes

Let’s be clear – you don’t want to replace one pest with another. However, encouraging natural predators is a good way to keep this invasive species away, and they can be naturally exterminated. Also, though we have no control over it, a naturally occurring virus called ‘wilt’ and a fungal pathogen called entomophaga maimaiga, is causing the collapse of heavy infestations. These have had a great effect on the fight against this invasive species.

7. Call An Exterminator

When it comes down to it, a major infestation can be difficult to deal with. While chemical insecticides do exist that can kill gypsy moths, they can cause harm to other plants and wildlife as well. If you are faced with an invasive species problem, consider contacting a pest control expert to oversee and handle the issue quickly and with little harm to other plants and animals.

Stopping An Gypsy Moth Infestation

Gypsy moths are not only a danger to your home and family; they are destroying our native foliage. Take the proper steps to safeguard against this invasive species and keep them from your property.