Gypsy Moth Invasion
The Gypsy Moth is an invasive species from Western Europe. It was transplanted into the Boston Area by a French Scientist in 1868. Since it’s introduction, the Gypsy Moth has made a slow but methodical march southward, invading the lush Appalachian Hardwood forest only in the past decade or two.1
The first large scale outbreak of the Gypsy Moth occurred in 1889, but was isolated in scope. However, by 1990 the moth had established populations throughout the northeast US as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The insect is working its way westward with populations in West Virginia, Michigan and now Ohio.
Eradication efforts are ongoing but so far ineffective at eliminating the threat of this invasive species.While the moth itself is relatively benign, the caterpillar phase of the insects lifespan can wreak havoc on an otherwise healthy tree. Gypsy Moth caterpillars have a particular affinity towards Northern White Oaks and Chinkapin White Oaks, often causing rapid decline to the host tree upon introduction of the insect to the canopy. The caterpillar form of Gypsy Moth is so ravenous that during a heavy infestation dropping bits of canopy and insect excrement can sound like rainfall!
Invasive Gypsy Moth Continues Spread
While state and national agencies are working hard to slow it’s progression, the Gypsy Moth is uniquely adapted to move—threads created by the caterpillar are allow the insect to take flight during moderate or strong winds and move up to two miles from the tree on which they were hatched.
Given the Gypsy Moth’s unique travel capabilities and voracious appetite, it is proving to be one of the largest threats to the forest in North America. It is estimated that the Gypsy Moth is currently causing over $500M per year in damage to the eastern US forest, making it one of the costliest invasive species to enter the United States to date.
Management of the Gypsy Moth includes the application of pesticides and the use of pheromones to disrupt the mating cycle of the moth. While there are significant efforts at eradicating this pest the results have been slow and arduous and the advancement of the Moth into Ohio is continuing. Despite it’s preference for Oak, Gypsy Moth larvae can feed on most of the species of trees native to the Appalachian hardwood region.
What Ohio Forest Owners Should Know
Some of the best Northern White Oak is grown right here in Ohio. Particularly in the Appalachian region of the state, White Oak grows tall and straight and nice.
The valuable Northern White Oak seems to be among the most vulnerable to Gypsy Moth…
In fact, the White Oak stand in Ohio is one of our most valuable natural resources, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the economy and supporting entire industries such as the state’s rapidly expanding stave industry.
Ohio forest owners who own land in this area, should consult with a professional about steps they should take to control he spread of Gypsy Moth and preemptively harvest certain trees that are vulnerable to a die off. Within a season or two a single dead tree can turn into dozens, not only decimating the vitality and canopy of the woods but also destroying valuable, merchantable timber.