Gypsy Moths are small insects with a ferocious appetite. They’ll eat most any type of tree and their spring feeding frenzy can defoliate forests. Though their damaging behavior is most prevalent for 2-3 months each year, the impact of their feeding can be long lasting. This article will provide some basic facts about gypsy moths and then offer treatment options to help control and contain local infestations.
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GYPSY MOTH HISTORY
Gypsy moths are not native to North America. Brought to Massachusetts back around 1869, they were imported for the intention of silk farming. Some escaped and the impact of their presence was soon discovered across our countryside. Gypsy moths have a ferocious appetite and combined with a strong ability to reproduce, it didn’t take long for them to migrate across our country. Presently they are active as far south as Florida and they continue to migrate through the Midwest toward the west coast. They can feed on most any type of tree including oak, apple, beech, birch, willow and hemlock. Though it’s rare that any host tree will die as a direct result of gypsy moths, the loss of leaves will indirectly cause other problems. Fungus, disease and other parasitic pests will find damaged host trees leading to stunted growth and ultimately death. Needless to say, the end result of “importing just a few gypsy moths” was never imagined; at this time gypsy moths represent the single most significant threat to our forests.
GYPSY MOTH BIOLOGY
Gypsy moths have a simple life cycle. Eggs hatch small worm like caterpillars which feed on trees. These larva are tiny – so tiny they’re hard to see at first – but their silky webs will be both felt and seen everywhere once active. They use this silky web-thread to move up and down host trees. It will also enable them to migrate from one tree to another as the small light body of the larva is easily carried by the wind. This spring feeding will occur for 2-3 months. It will start in April or May and continue through July or August. Once they have their fill, they will travel away from host trees where they will spin a cocoon and undergo metamorphosis. Later in the year they will emerge as adult moths ready to mate and lay new brood eggs to continue the growth of the local population.
Once emerged, adult males have a strong desire to find females. This pursuit will happen during the dark of the night. Females will mate and lay eggs throughout the fall and die off as winter arrives. Before she dies, the average female will lay thousands of eggs. Her egg masses will be found on the bottom side of tree branches and bark of good host trees. Females also seem to identify a good egg laying location as homes and other man made buildings. This behavior seems to be one of the main reasons why gypsy moths have found their way into most residential neighborhoods. Ornamental trees seem to be a food favorite and most any homeowners yard will provide ample hiding places for these egg masses. The average size of these masses will be 500-1000 eggs and if left untreated, these foraging young will cause a lot of damage in the following year!
GYPSY MOTH INVASIONS
Now that gypsy moths are active in so many states, the goal of eliminating them has pretty much been abandoned. They are here to stay. If you have activity in your community, it’s just a matter a “when” they will appear on your property. Fortunately there are a lot of treatment options. And though many local state and county government agencies have control programs in place, don’t expect their effort to keep your property free and clear of the damaging feeding. If you want to keep them out or if you already have actively feeding larva, there are a few things that can be done.
GYPSY MOTH LIFE CYCLE
First, it’s important to understand a few things about how and when the larva feed. One of the unique characteristics of gypsy moths is their natural instinctive behavior to feed at night. This behavior helps to minimize the impact local birds and other prey animals would otherwise have; many birds like to feed on insects but almost all do this during the day. Gypsy moths will hide from the light. They will drop off trees via their webbing or crawl down tree trunks and seek refuge in rocks, mulch or other objects that surround host trees. They do this at the first sign of light and there they will rest during the day, well removed from local predators, and lie in wait till darkness once again returns. At that time they will crawl back out and go back to their damaging feeding. This distinctive feeding pattern means there are two ways attempt controlling local populations.
GYPSY MOTH CONTROL SPRAY
The most common way is to spray the host tree on which the larva are active. This is important and is probably the control method that will have the biggest impact. There are many products that can be used including biological and non-insecticidal materials. Bacteria, in the form of THURICIDE, can be sprayed on any part of the plant. This bacteria is harmless to people or animals but once inside plant eating insects, they will die. It’s a little slow to work so be patient when using Thuricide and renew applications weekly till the activity is stopped.
A more direct and faster acting material that is still harmless to people and animals is INSECTICIDAL SOAP. Basically a derivative of common cleaning soap this formulation does a good job of killing on contact. However, it offers no residual and you will have to apply it over and over during the course of the active season. You’ll know when to reapply as larva return; expect to treat once a week for a month or two in most regions.
If you have a bad situation and need immediate and longer lasting protection from your effort, use a true insecticide like CYONARA RTS. This concentrate is mild, labeled for use on vegetables and most any plant and will kill gypsy moths quickly. Treatments will last 2-3 weeks and the packaging is handy; just hook it up to your garden hose and start treating.
A more concentrated Permethrin will provide a longer residual and the best one is VEGETABLES PLUS. It’s roughly 4 times stronger then the Viper but will have to be diluted and applied with one of our SPRAYERS. It’s also suggested that you add some SPREADER STICKER to the tank along with the concentrate. Spreader Sticker is an “additive” that gets the concentrate to work better. Basically it causes the Permethrin to “engulf” or “spread” on treated surfaces. You will need one of our sprayers to apply either the Thuricide or Insecticidal Soap too but Spreader Sticker won’t be needed for them.
Vegetables Plus Perm: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/liquid/veg-plus-10-perm
Pump Sprayer: http://www.bugspraycart.com/good/pump-sprayers
Spreader Sticker: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/additive/spreader-sticker
GYPSY MOTH CONTROL FOGGERS
Remember that larva will forage high for food and they could be well beyond the reach of the average sprayer so make sure you are able to get adequate coverage when doing the application. If you have a lot of dense plants to spray, the use of a fogger may be more effective. Models like the FM6309 or the FM6208 do a great job of carrying material far distances. With a little breeze and a location both high and upwind of a host tree, it may be possible to use one of these foggers to adequately treat host trees that can not be sprayed with conventional liquid sprayers. These foggers can be used to apply any of the mentioned products and they will prove highly effective for most any type of pest control including both flying and crawling insects.
GYPSY MOTH CONTROL GRANULES
The second control method that could prove helpful for any local population is the treatment of the ground and any object surrounding the host tree. Since larva will readily move off host trees during the day, be sure to spray the surrounding area. The use of some COMPLETE LAWN CONTROL GRANULES to these areas may prove more effective then spraying – especially if the area is largely mulch like straw or some type of bark. Apply them with one of our GRANULE SPREADERS. These Cyfluthrin and Merit based granules are odorless and safe for use around people and pets but are effective on many types of insects like gypsy moth larva. As the larva crawl down into the mulch or over treated areas, they will absorb the active and die off. This will help to control local populations and ultimately the long term reproduction capabilities of the infestation.
GYPSY MOTH CONTROL TRAPS
Lastly, the third tool you should incorporate is the use of some traps. GYPSY MOTH PHEROMONE TRAPS do a great job of attracting and killing moths which have nothing on their mind but reproduction. By catching as many reproducing adults as possible, the use of traps is yet another way one can help to cut down on the long term population of local gypsy moths. Set out these traps around the property along forest lines and boundaries. Remember, the pheromone smelling capability of adult gypsy moths is amazing. The lure in these traps is concentrated and adults may be attracted from miles. For this reason it’s important to monitor the trap making sure they don’t fill in any one season. Inspect them once a month and as soon as you see adults collecting, move to weekly inspections. When the trap fills, drown any still alive, empty and set them back out. It’s important to understand the use of traps will not have any direct impact on the local population you may be seeing. However, by killing off potential reproductives you are contributing to the long term control of this damaging pest.
Gypsy Moths are a major pest across the United States of America. If they are active in your region, be aware of the damage they do with their ferocious feeding and monitor your landscape for any signs some have entered. Even if you don’t have any active, it’s a good idea to apply some Thuricide to any plant you would like to keep around if gypsy moths are active. This “pretreatment” will help to minimize damage should some find your plants. Once established, a more aggressive approach will be needed. Use a combination of sprays and granules for bad infestations and set out traps to help keep reproduction minimized. Gypsy moths are here to stay and if you value your trees and other landscaping you won’t want to give them the chance to wreak their damaging feeding on your property.
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