Despair: The Destructive Gypsy Moth

Tim Tigner, Virginia Dept of Forestry,

Tim Tigner, Virginia Dept of Forestry,

by Annie Means, Plant Health Management major

Since 1914, the gypsy moth has wreaked havoc on Ohio forests. The gypsy moth was originally introduced from Europe to Massachusetts in 1869 in hopes it could be crossed with silkworms. Unfortunately, the results of the attempted cross were escaped moths that would later take over East coast and Midwest forests.

What makes this invasive species so destructive is the larvae’s appetite. Once hatched, larvae move toward the tops of trees to feed and grow until they transform into adults. It was estimated in 1995 that almost 35,000 acres of Ohio had been defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars. Looking into this Gypsy’s crystal ball shows the effects of the moth, which not only include drastic defoliation, but economic losses and environmental degradation, as well. They are literally killing trees and will continue to do so.

So, what can be done to combat these hungry, hungry caterpillars? Several programs have been put in place in order to slow the spread of gypsy moth. Such programs include a variety of methods used for eradication. One of the more promising programs is the introduction of a fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga, which targets gypsy moth larvae. The spread of Entomophaga maimaiga gives hope to Ohio trees as it slows the spread of gypsy moth.

More information on gypsy moth and its effects on Ohio trees can be found here:

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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