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Control Gypsy Moths in Your Garden

These destructive insects are now found throughout the northeast, western Wisconsin, and southern Virginia.

"Gypsy moths can defoliate hundreds of acres and decimate a forest, "says entomologist Michael Skvarla, Ph.D., assistant professor of arthropod identification research at Penn State University.

"They haven't been a problem for the last 10 or 15 years, but by 2021, we are seeing a significant outbreak."

Population explosions often collapse due to natural predators such as rats or some wasps, or two naturally occurring diseases, a virus known as VPN and a fungus.

In the meantime, it's definitely not so nice to watch them eat your trees, cover the side of your house, or break up the family picnic.

Also, a large infestation can result in too much caterpillar poop on decks and patios. The good news is that gypsy moth caterpillars do not bite, although if handled, their hair can cause skin irritation and their debris can simply be hosed off.

While you can't eliminate gypsy moths, you can take steps to try to reduce the population and feel a little less anxious about your entire garden being your personal buffet.

Index

    Will the gypsy moth kill my trees?

    Depends. "Most healthy deciduous trees can take 1 to 3 years to fully defoliate, but if an outbreak continues beyond that, we could see the tree die," says Skvarla.

    However, seedlings or new transplants, or trees affected by drought may be more vulnerable because they do not have reserved energy reserves or established root systems.

    Also, conifers do not grow needles again, so they may be at higher risk of dying.

    How do I deal with gypsy moth caterpillars?

    If you catch them in the baby caterpillar stage when they first hatch in May, you can try spraying them with a natural biological pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki, or BTk.

    This is the specific strain that attacks gypsy moths. Unfortunately, since the caterpillars are all full-size, this treatment is less effective.

    Other chemicals are not recommended because they also kill beneficial insects, says Skvarla. If you have a big problem or an expensive tree that worries you, an arborist can help control it.

    For adult caterpillars, you can create barrier strips on your trees by wrapping the affected trunks with folded tow; Older caterpillars will find a place to hide during the day so you can remove and destroy them by scraping them in a bucket of soapy water.

    For a large number of caterpillars, for example, on your deck or on the side of your house, hose them down, sweep them up, and soak them in a bucket of soapy water.

    Or just smash them (effective but confusing).

    Go on a mission to find and destroy eggs

    In late summer, the moths emerge from their cocoons and mate. Females do not fly but emit pheromones to attract males. A female then lays hundreds of eggs in a flat, fluffy, two-inch-long egg mass that hatches the following spring.

    Egg masses are usually found on tree trunks, but they can also be on any hard object, including campers, boats, and barbecues, so these items should be inspected if you move into an area where gypsy moths haven't yet, have made infested (check current states here).

    In late fall and throughout winter, keep an eye out for these masses. Scrape them off with a spatula and pour them into a bucket of hot soapy water; don't try to squash them as some may survive and hatch next spring.

    Or put them in a plastic bag in the sun. It is time-consuming (but also a little satisfying!) And can help reduce the number of plants in your own garden next year.

    We hope you enjoy this video about how to control Gypsy Moths:

    Source: Grass Daddy

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