Ed Golson Outdoor Education

gypsy moth

( Invasive Species )

Scientific Name: Lymantria dispar

Order: Lepidoptera

Description:  This is one of the most devastating invasive species to the forests in North America.  This insect is native to Europe and Asia, and was introduced back in the late 1800s in Boston and we have not gotten rid of it yet.  The gypsy moths start off as eggs then they hatch in the spring into caterpillars.  The female caterpillars have 5 molts before becoming an adult and the males have 6 molts.  The caterpillars grow from ¼ inch to almost 2 inches before going through metamorphosis to become a moth.  As caterpillars they are brownish-black with thick black hairs on their backs.  As adults the female looks white with a few black spots and can not fly because she is too heavy, and the male looks gray to brown and can fly.

Habitat:  These insects live all over the United States and Canada.  The caterpillars stay where it is shaded during the day and come out to eat at night.  They make their homes in forests .

What is the problem?  Actually it is not the moth itself that is the problem, it is their young. When they were first introduced, people sought to use them as silkworms.  However, that was an experiment that went bad because the caterpillars ate all of the leaves off of nearby trees.  Since all the leaves were gone the trees were not able to photosynthesize thus killing them. Gypsy moth populations continue to spread further and further into new forests. Fortunately there are some natural predators such as birds to keep populations from getting out of control, but there are still too many.


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