Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gypsy Moths Can Kill Your Oaks, Hickories and Willows

We've had lots of call this season already from residents who think gypsy moths are killing their trees.

The gypsy moth is a leaf-eating insect that feasts on trees and shrubs. In large populations, it’s capable of stripping plants bare, leaving them vulnerable to secondary insect and disease attacks.
This pest was brought to the United States from Europe in 1869 to breed a hardier silk worm; unfortunately, some caterpillars escaped and, without natural enemies here, quickly took-up residence in forests along the East Coast. 
female gypsy moth
Because of the weight of their eggs, female moths cannot fly. So, they typically lay their eggs on objects near the trees where they’re feeding, including picnic tables, campers, and grills. When these items are moved, the moth eggs “hitchhike” along like a wandering gypsy. For this reason, it’s extremely important to check all vehicles and equipment after camping, hiking, or visiting family and friends in infested areas. 
gypsy moth egg mass
If it’s white and flies, it’s NOT a gypsy moth! Male gypsy moths are brown with black markings and have a wingspan of about an inch-and-a-half. The females have wingspans of up to two inches and are white or cream-colored. But, remember, they’re too heavy to fly.
Gypsy moths aren’t finicky eaters. They’ll devour almost anything leafy and green, but especially like oak, hickory, and willow trees. They’ll also reluctantly eat ash trees and evergreens. Their least favorite meal is the male gypsy mothtulip poplar, which they avoid entirely.
The gypsy moth is migrating west, and is beginning to established itself in Illinois. The state has had isolated infestations, all of which have been eradicated. These infestations primarily have occurred in the northeast, although gypsy moths also have been found as far south as Morton and Peoria. Lake County, Illinois was quarantined in 2000. The counties of Mc Henry Cook and Du Page were added in 2007.
A quarantine requires all nursery stock and firewood being shipped out of the affected counties to be inspected and certified, a difficult and time-consuming procedure. All nurseries and nursery dealers are also required to treat their property and/or stock, and persons leaving quarantined counties have to have all of their outdoor equipment inspected.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Environmental Programs particpates in the Slow the Spread program, a joint local, state and federal effort to reduce and control the spread of the gypsy moth.

More Gypsy Moth Facts

Although the caterpillars prefer oak leaves, they will eat from more than 500 kinds of shrubs and trees.
gypsy moth caterpillar
Gypsy moth caterpillars grow from 1/16 inch long at hatching to about 2 inches long, multiplying their weight almost 1,000 times. One 2-inch caterpillar can eat leaves covering more than one square yard.
One gypsy moth eggmass may produce up to 1,000 caterpillars and for every egg mass we can see, there may be dozens or hundreds, hidden.

If you suspect a Gypsy Moth infestation, please call Trees "R" Us, Inc. immediately.  We can help you treat your sickly trees and will properly assess the damage to your trees.  As a homeowner, it is important to protect the investment you have in your trees.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. is the right choice for your tree care needs.  
We service the North Shore area of Chicago and the surrounding Northwest suburbs.  Contact us via the web at; phone at 847-913-9069; or email at

Thanks for reading,

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