From our friends at Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust
In the next few days, gypsy moths eggs laid last July will hatch, bringing a wave of defoliation and ecological damage – here’s what you can do to help stop them.
Of all the thousands of invasive species globally, the gypsy moth is in the top 100 of the most destructive. It’s native to Europe, where their natural diseases and predators keep numbers controlled. It was brought to North America in 1869, to Medford Massachusetts, by a person who thought the gypsy moth could be bred with silkworms for a new fabric industry. The story goes that the moths escaped out an open window – and those few escapees have now spread across eastern states and provinces. The gypsy moth is not a strong flier – but the larvae are light, and spin silk threads that carry them aloft on the wind.
The invader’s success owes especially to the moth’s eggs. Each female can lay up to 500 eggs. The masses of firm, round eggs are covered in a peach-like fuzz coating that can cause serious skin rashes, and the fuzz helps insulate the eggs to survive cold winters. With the spring hatch, the larvae climb into trees and shrubs, feeding mostly at night, hiding out on the underside of leaves by day. Their favourite food is oak leaves, but just about any plant will do. Colonies of thousands can strip forests of leaves, weakening trees severely, and killing them if the outbreak lasts over years.
There are other impacts of the gypsy moth. Their body fluid and pathogens can be fatal to our native swallowtail butterflies. And when they strip trees of foliage, bird nests become more visible to predators.
Thankfully, there are several natural and anthropogenic (human-made) ways to quell the invasion. A report by the Regional Forest Health Network (spearheaded by the Eastern Ontario Model Forest) in partnership with the Invasive Species Centre details some of the ways that you can protect the land you love from this invasive threat at all stages of the caterpillar’s lifecycle. Download the report at the link below.