The gypsy moth is an introduced insect that is one of the most destructive pests of trees and shrubs ever to reach our shores. Its immature stage, a dark, hairy caterpillar with rows of red and blue spots on its back, is a general feeder that devours more than 450 species of plants! The caterpillars feast on leaves, leaving defoliated plants weakened and perhaps even killed. This pest overwinters as inch-and-a-half long egg masses that look like a clumps of tan or buff-colored hairs on tree trunks, outdoor furniture, or the sides of buildings.
Native to Europe and Asia, the gypsy moth was accidentally introduced in the Boston area in the 1860's and has since spread to much of the eastern United States. There have also been some infestations on the West Coast that came from Asia. In an effort to keep this pest from spreading further, the USDA requires homeowners to inspect and remove gypsy moth egg masses from household goods prior to moving from an infested to a non-infested area.
If you have a move planned, first find out if you are in a gypsy moth-quarantined area by checking out the Your Move Gypsy Moth Free website. There you can also learn how to inspect your outdoor household articles such as lawn furniture, yard equipment, outdoor toys, and the like, for gypsy moth egg masses and remove them. Without checking, you can unwittingly bring the moth with you and risk harm to the landscape trees and shrubs and natural forests in your new community.
Print out a handy self-inspection checklist or download a brochure with all the information you need to move safely and comply with federal law. To hone your detection skills, you can even play the fun, on-line Bust-a-Moth game.
For more information, go to: Your Move Gypsy Moth Free.
Article published on August 16, 2011.