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Gypsy Moths: What You Need to Know

A Moth
If you find holes in your tree's leaves and the foliage just doesn't look right, you might start to worry about the greenery that should be growing outside of your home. Upon further investigation, you might see what looks like some sort of insect crawling on the leaves, hanging from the branches, or building nests on the tree.

What's going on with your trees? Chances are, you have a pest invasion. The good news is that there are remedies for tree-destroying insect populations. Tent caterpillars, bagworms, webworms, and bark-boring beetles are all possible pests that may invade your yard. But out of all the pests, one of the most wellknown (and feared) is the gypsy moth.

If you suspect that you have a gypsy moth infestation, your first step is to understand the basics. Instead of anxiously awaiting what could come, take a look at what you need to know about gypsy moths and your trees.

Are the Insects Gypsy Moths?

Before assuming that your trees actually have gypsy moths, you need a proper diagnosis. Like other moths, gypsy moths have a life cycle that includes several different stages. Female moths lay clumps of tan-colored hairy eggs in private places, including the underneath of tree limbs. Each egg clump can include between 500 and 1,000 eggs in it. When the eggs hatch in the spring, small caterpillars emerge.

The gypsy moth caterpillar is brightly-hued with a yellow head and blue and red dots on its body. Along with a colorful appearance, the caterpillars are covered in hair. During the caterpillar, or larval, stage, gypsy moths tend to cause mass damage to tree leaves. The young moths eat heavily, and your trees are their favorite meal.

Over the summer months, the caterpillars move into the pupal stage, transitioning from caterpillars to winged insects. You may see the moths' brown cocoons on the tree in hidden or sheltered places. When the moths emerge from the pupal stage, they're much less colorful than they were as caterpillars. Adult females are cream or deep tan and males are brown.

If the insects crawling or fluttering on your trees have different colors or look entirely different than the gypsy moth description, chances are that you have another type of pest. A tree service expert can evaluate the insects and give you a correct diagnosis.

Do Gypsy Moths Make Tents?

You've seen those tent-like webs covered trees. And you may have even heard that the tents are home to gypsy moths. This isn't so. While Easter tent caterpillars weave intricate tents (as the name implies), gypsy moths do not. If you see tents in your trees, they don't belong to gypsy moths.

Even though the webs of Eastern tent caterpillars may not add aesthetically to your yard, these insects rarely cause major damage. Again, a tree service professional can assess the insect population and provide you with answers and recommendations.

What Damage Do Gypsy Moths Cause?

Gypsy moths eat leaves during the larval stage. This can result in unsightly holes in your tree's leaves. The moths themselves aren't native to North America. In the late 1800s, the moths were accidentally introduced to the U.S. Over time, their populations grew, moving into new areas and species of trees.

Federal and local government agencies (such as the USDA and local forestry services) have tried to prevent overpopulation by eradicating gypsy moths. Stopping the spread of the moths is the only way to prevent leaf damage to trees.

Never attempt to remove the caterpillars or moths by yourself. Store-bought bug sprays won't solve the problem. Instead, you need a professional's help.

Do you have pests in your trees? Contact Cadieu Tree Experts for more information.

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