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  • Writer's pictureSherrie Meyer

Meet Lymantria Dispar Dispar (LDD) aka The Gypsy Moth

With all the talk around Gypsy Moths, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to our furry "friends". Get up close and personal with them to arm you with an arsenal of fighting facts! Before we get to the heart of how to fix the dreaded invasion, let's meet these cute, little fuzzy critters and fill you in on what they are all about.

Gypsy Moth Introduction:

The European Gypsy Moth (Lymantria Dispar Dispar) is a moth species that is native to Europe but was introduced to the United States in 1869. If you can believe it, these moths were deliberately brought to North America in an attempt to create a silk industry. Little did anyone at the time know that these fluffy flyers don't know a thing about silk!

Gypsy moths can be easily identified and have a unique life cycle with some interesting facts that even we didn't know about!

First up, the eggs. The eggs of the gypsy moth are a tanned yellow colour and covered in fuzz. They are laid in egg masses in the protected areas of trees, garbage cans, outdoor furniture and even around children's toys! That’s right - they don't discriminate with location, and it seems that wherever is the most inconvenient for us, is what works best for them.

The larvae are identified by a very hairy body with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots that that run right down its back. The pupal stage is next, and we all know what happens here. The shell, the metamorphosis, the transition into becoming the beautiful, winged creature that is every gyspy moth’s destiny!

Finally, its go time! The Adults! The male adults are brown in colour and have very feathery antennae, while the females are beige and can you believe it, they cannot fly! To add insult to injury, the adults can’t even feed themselves because they don't have a mouth! No eating apparatus at all! This leaves them only about two weeks to find their true love, mate and start the next generation before they fly to moth heaven.

Gypsy Moth females lay anywhere from 500 - 1000 eggs in protected areas. The eggs hatch in the spring around mid - late May and the Larvae/caterpillars climb up close by trees and literally start to devour the leaves. They become veracious feeders at night, and they stay at this caterpillar stage for about 40 days. They will then find a sheltered place to pupate and in early summer (June/July) will transform into adult moths starting the whole cycle over again.

In sharing this lovely story of a gypsy moth's lifecycle, I bet some of you are asking, what’s the deal? What’s all the fuss about? And why can't people stop talking about these fluffy, little, furry creatures? So here’s the thing, during severe population now, these little crawlers become terrors and any deciduous trees worst nightmare! One single Gypsy moth can consume one square meter of leave in just one season. Not to mention the allergies that some people suffer from the teeny, tiny caterpillar hairs is a disaster unto itself.

The caterpillars are not selective in their food choice as they will eat the leaves of more than 400 species of plants including oak, maple, spruce, elm, birch and poplar. They will also turn to garden shrubs and flowering plants when their preferred food supply is scarce. These outbreaks occur every 5 - 10 years and usually last between 2 and 4 seasons, but until the life cycle collapses, there are some things that you, the homeowner can do to protect your trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

Timing is everything and continuity a must, but these management options from are tried, true and effective solutions to jump start control of your very own gypsy moth population which starts with keeping your tree healthy. This means watering during dry periods, following a regular fertilization regimen, adding mulch and soil around the base of your trees and keeping the base free and clear of any objects that could hamper its health.

Note, always wear gloves when dealing with gypsy moth caterpillars as their hairs can cause skin irritation and allergies.

Option 1:

Activity - hand picking caterpillars

Timing - May to July

Process - Scrape off caterpillars into water/soap mixture, leave for a few days and then dispose in the garbage. Do not scrape caterpillars onto the ground.

Option 2:

Activity - Burlap Banding

Timing - June to August

Process - Place a burlap band around the trunk of your trees where caterpillars will hide during the heat of the day. Check the bands regularly and scrape caterpillars into a container with soapy water. Leave for a few days and then dispose in garbage.

Option 3:

Timing - July to August

Process - Pheromone traps are intended to attract and trap male adult LDD moths, to prevent them from mating with females. these traps should be placed before Moths emerge to attract the males immediately and help break the life cycle.

Option 4:

Activity - Scraping egg masses

Timing: April to early May

Process - Scrape off egg masses into soapy water, leave for a few days and dispose of in the garbage. Do not scrape egg masses onto the ground, this does not kill the eggs and may actually improve survival.

If you are experiencing a severe infestation of Gypsy Moths, simply follow these guidance and management options to help break the lifecycle which will inevitably assist in causing the collapse of the gypsy moth population. Until then, we’ll keep our fingers crossed, and hope that these fluffy tree loving crawlers will find a new place to call home. If you have any questions or need help with any or all Gypsy Moth fighting supplies, simply contact us and we are always happy to help.

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