Moths are relatively harmless, but they can be annoying if you have a lot of them buzzing around especially if you like to spend time outdoors. Gypsy moths are different than a lot of harmless moths because they can damage trees and are a big problem in the forests of the northern United States.
Gypsy moths are a failed experiment that took place in 1869. The cost of silk was high, and the United States wanted to start a silk worm industry so they could take advantage of lower costs due to transport and rarity. This didn’t work out, and the gypsy moth soon found its way into the forests and backyards of America.
Gypsy moth caterpillars emerge in early spring and through the middle of May. The larvae emerge and feed mostly at night on leaves. This can lead to major defoliation in record time. This means that gypsy moths need to be prevented or eliminated as soon as possible when you realize that this is the problem. Large areas of damage may need to be assessed by a forestry professional as well as an exterminator to come up with a feasible and effective long term plan.
Here are a few ways you can prevent or get rid of gypsy moths. Taking action with sprays as soon as you see larvae is often the most advised method, especially if this is your first time seeing them on your property.
Defoliation Is a Big Deal
Defoliation of trees and shrubs is something that the caterpillars that turn into gypsy moths are notorious for doing. If you care about your trees, then it is important to get rid of gypsy moths as soon as you realize that there is a problem.
Defoliation occurs most at night so when you wake up in the morning and trees look more ragged, then this is a sign that you have a gypsy moth problem to deal with. There are other larvae that can also contribute to defoliation so take a look at the situation before you just treat for one thing.
Gypsy moth insecticide should be applied at the beginning and throughout the first half of the month of May. If you have people in your home that have a tendency to be sensitive to chemicals or have experienced allergic reactions in the past, then you need to consider insecticides carefully. If your moth problem is minor and you haven’t tried much, you may not want to use insecticides to start with.
Gypsy moth sprays should be applied right after larvae hatch to be the most effective. Applying after this time can be helpful, but good timing is going to offer you the best results for your time and money.
Gypsy moths like dark, secretive spaces. When you reduce the habitat for gypsy moths, you reduce their numbers and the chances that they will reproduce. Large flood lights around your home or landscape lighting can all be helpful and can make your property easier to get around and more secure.
There is a lot of lighting to choose from that is very beautiful so don’t think you have to put lights like those you see at parking lots up around your home.
Recognize Eggs and Eliminate Them
During winter and early spring, it is fairly easy to locate gypsy moth eggs before they hatch out into caterpillars. The eggs are usually attached to wood, tree bark, or anything that is left outside during most of the year. Look for brown oval egg sacks. Scrape the eggs sacks into a soapy water solution and discard in the trash and you will do a lot to decrease the numbers of moths you have to deal with next season. This can take some investigative work, but it is something you can do without buying or spraying anything at all.
Use Microbial Insecticides
Bacillus thuringiensis is available at almost all home and garden stores and works well for eliminating all types of moths and caterpillars. This crystal protein is ingested by the caterpillar or moth and then creates a toxin that will kill moths and caterpillars. This is a very common microbial protector that is used a lot in organic agriculture. Use proper safety gear to do this. Just because you are using a natural product doesn’t mean that it cannot irritate your lungs or skin to spray it.
Make an Effort to Rid Your Home of Weeds and Debris
If you have a bunch of wood piles around your home or business, then you need to make a serious effort to get rid of them. Burning piles of wood are okay in a lot of areas, or you may need to use a container such as a barrel and get a burn permit. Wood and debris make it easy for moths to hide and also lay their eggs, so you keep getting a worse gypsy moth problem. Your local landfill may accept wood debris and other objects.
Get Rid of Garbage Around Your Home
Even those with the best of intentions may find that they have junk lying around their yard or home that they keep saying they are going to haul off. Any garbage or other junk makes it simpler for moths to share your space. If you want to get rid of insects and other pests you have to clean up around your home. The landfill fees you may have to pay to dispose of some items are well worth it for a cleaner and happier home area.
If you just have a few moths you should make an attempt to swat them. It doesn’t take much, and every one moth you eliminate is one less you are going to have to deal with later on down the road. Don’t be shy about swatting gypsy moths and let others in your household know about the devastation they can cause as well.
Traps on Trees
You can make a gypsy moth trap on a tree trunk using burlap. Adding pheromone strips can also help attract moths to your general area. You can then kill the moths when they land and become trapped in the burlap. Some people argue that the pheromone strips can just make matters worse because they draw in the moths more but if you already have a bad enough of a problem to warrant the traps then this argument doesn’t hold too much merit. To use this method just wrap the tree trunk with burlap. Tie a piece of rope or string around the burlap and then let the top form a flap. This will corral moths so you can capture and kill them.
Monitor Progress and Reassess Annually
Gypsy moth populations can fluctuate depending on the weather and the survival rate of their eggs sacks for the year. What solution works for you one season may not seem like enough one year, or it may seem completely unnecessary the following year. Part of managing pests with a more natural approach is being observant so you can take action when needed and back off when the problem is under good control.
Get Rid of Severely Affected Trees and Shrubs
If you have trees or shrubs that have suffered a lot from gypsy moths, you might consider replacing them. If larvae can feed on the sick trees, then they can make the problem you are having worse. Cutting back some trees from around your home can be a good idea anyway for a fire break and to prevent falling limbs from damaging your structure.
Trees that are not healthy are more likely to shed limbs or fall over so removing them can ensure that they are not a safety hazard to you and your family. A single tree limb can cause a lot of damage or injury all by itself. If you have an entire tree come down where you don’t want it to you could be facing a lot of repairs and a hefty claim on your insurance policy.
Deciduous Trees Affected First
It is most common for gypsy moths to damage deciduous trees first and then move on to evergreen trees such as spruce and pine. This is one reason you may discover that some of your trees are not as affected as others. Gypsy moth larvae prefer the rich green leaves of trees like alder and birch over the piney and astringent tasting spruce and pine.
Let Your Neighbors Know
If you don’t think your neighbors know about gypsy moths in your area, then you may consider letting them know or your local forest service. Gypsy moths have caused a lot of damage to forests and without good control, this will continue. Remember that the Gypsy moth is not a native insect so it has no place in the United States. Diligent control and communication will help prevent these devastating moths from spreading any more than they already have.
The gypsy moth is responsible for a large amount of the damage and losses of hardwood forests in North America. It is hard to estimate how much of an economic impact this moth has had over the years on the timber and associated industries.
In recent times the Forest Service and other state and local wildlife and environmental agencies have come together to eradicate and prevent the spread of gypsy moths throughout the United States. If you are having a problem, you should let the Forest Service know. Doing this may allow you to get some free help taking control of the situation. At the very least you will know more so you can make a better choice for your property and help prevent the problem from spreading to others.
Usually, the branch of the Department Of Agriculture that is responsible for gypsy moth programs is the local agricultural extension agency. Make sure you are aware of what is involved with the solutions they suggest, so you are not surprised with the results.
The gypsy moth has been in the United States a long time now, and although it can cause a lot of devastation, it is not going to completely take out your forest unless you have a very severe problem and do nothing to stop it.
There are plenty of cases where gypsy moth populations have been successfully brought under control. Even in cases where the infestation is most severe, and the problem is let go, the tree mortality rate rarely goes above 20%.
Gypsy Moths Are a Food Source for Pests
When it comes to nature, there is a definite pattern and cycle for most anything. The gypsy moth is no different. Predators include deer mice and shrews. This also means that if you have a major insect population that you are helping support a population of rodents and other predators. In turn, this population could be drawing in still larger predators such as hawks or owls. Breaking the pest cycle is a real challenge that homeowners face all the time.
Unfortunately, birds themselves do not seem to consider gypsy moth larvae a desirable food choice. It is believed that the larvae are rather hairy, unlike the fat, smooth grubs that birds desire most of all.
Natural Insect Predators
Ants and ground beetles are some of the more common insect predators of gypsy moths. Of course, you may not like having a lot of ants around but if they are mostly in the wooded areas around your home they are going to be a lot better than gypsy moths devastating your entire property. Ground beetles are harmless and great predators to encourage. You don’t have to do much to encourage these natural predators short of not targeting them with sprays and other eradication efforts.