Gypsy Moth: How to identify it and what you can do

Invasive species across the country have been making news headlines. People want to know what they are, where they are, and if they pose a threat to their community. New ones like Asian Carp, Asian Long-Horned Beetle, and Emerald Ash Borer (while not exactly new, it’s still spreading westward across the U.S.) are what usually capture everyone’s attention. However, we can’t forget about the ones already established, ones that may have fallen off our collective radar because they have been around so long they have become commonplace. The fact remains, they’re still invasive, they’re still a problem, and we need to stay proactive about doing our part to control them.

Gypsy moth has been a long-standing problem in Michigan. They were introduced to the United States in Massachusetts in 1869 and made it to Michigan by 1954.



Lymantria_disparSince the female moths don’t fly, their spread across the country has been largely attributed to human transportation of eggs or caterpillars. While there are natural population control mechanisms in Michigan (disease, parasites, and predators), we still get the occasional population boom where they seem to be everywhere. The caterpillars have a voracious appetite, favoring a wide range of deciduous trees. The defoliation can cause extensive damage and even death of the infested tree if it is old or weakened by disease or stress.


Here are a few resources that may help you if you believe you have a gypsy moth problem:

Michigan State University Extension Gypsy Moth Homeowner’s Guide – identification, life cycle, and control methods

Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) Gypsy Moth Fact Sheet

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Hungry Pests website – current range, signs and symptoms of infestation, what you can do

What to Know Before You Move, USDA Hungry Pests – what to inspect, quarantine areas, moving checklist and tips


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