European Gypsy Moths are going to be dining out in Northumberland this summer

There are a few steps to take to dissuade them from chowing down

Article & images by Tim Burgess

Be on the lookout for unwanted guests destroying your trees this summer. The European Gypsy Moth is a non-native invasive insect that was brought to North America in the 1860s and spread to Ontario in the 1960’s.  

The caterpillars are easy to identify with five pairs of blue dots followed by six pairs of red dots lining their back. In addition, they are dark-coloured and covered with hairs. These tiny hairs contain histamines and when they touch your skin you may develop a rash.

Ewa Bednarczuk, Ecology & Stewardship Specialist with the Lower Trent Conservation Authority knows the killing power of these invasive species, “The moths feed on leaves of several tree species, their favourite being oaks. One tree being affected/weakened/killed does not have a big impact, but when the majority of trees of a particular species in one population are affected that can have more serious repercussions”.

Leaves are needed by the tree to produce the sugars they need to live.

Certain trees can regrow some leaves during the growing season but only if they are in good health. During population explosion years, vast numbers of caterpillars can defoliate trees completely removing a trees’ ability to photosynthesize. 

Gypsy moth females lay between 500 to 1,000 eggs in sheltered areas attached to trees, houses, or any outdoor objects. Eggs are laid in the late summer and overwinter. Small caterpillars hatch out in the spring and begin to feed on the leaves of trees. Adult moths emerge in July and August. 

You can stop the defoliation by caterpillars by wrapping burlap around trees or apply tape with the sticky side out to trap them. During the pupa stage, the pupae can be handpicked off trees and destroyed.

As Ewa explains, “Gypsy moth caterpillars are hairy and birds do not feed on them (except for two species of cuckoos), thus there is no predator control for this invasive species.”

Gypsy Moth outbreaks can be a significant nuisance to residents if their trees are affected.

Post Script: Ewa Bednarczuk, has been with the Conservation Authority for 10 years and enjoys the work. She says, “I like lots of things about my job, one of which is learning something new every day about the natural world, how it works and how to help care for it. Over the years you really get a good sense of the landscape. It’s a beautiful watershed to work in!”


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