Dingman Township
                           Pike County, PA        





Gypsy Moths

A Reoccurring Problem in Pike County


Mature gypsy moth caterpillar - approximately 2 inches long


Gypsy Moths are an invasive pest.  While always present in the area, sudden increases in the population wreck havoc on the trees that grow in the forests and our neighborhoods.

The caterpillars of the gypsy moth are voracious eaters of tree leaves.  They are particularly partial to oaks but have no qualms eating maples, birches, fruit trees, ornamentals and even occasionally pines. 

The gypsy moth begins life as an egg that is laid in a mass which typically contains over 500 eggs.  The egg masses, while usually located on trees, may often be found on rocks, logs, houses, outdoor furniture and just about anything outdoors.  The egg mass is protected in a sticky tan "silk".

The eggs winter over and in the spring emerge as tiny hairy caterpillars.  They climb up a tree and lower themselves on a silk thread.  Wind causes the thread to break free of the tree and the caterpillar uses the thread to sail into new territory.

Click Here for Gypsy Moth Identification Guide

The tiny 1/2 inch long caterpillars then climb up a host tree.  They strip the tree of its leaves both by consuming the leaf and by allowing portions of the leaf to fall to the ground.  They may strip the tree to the point where the tree's health and growth are severely impacted.  During times of high gypsy moth populations, thousands of acres of trees may be killed or severely weakened.

The caterpillars grow up to about 2.5 inches long.  When they reach maturity the caterpillars climb down the trees, find a sheltered area under rocks, logs, in gaps of a tree's bark, or anything else that they may find outdoors.  They spin a hard shell cocoon and develop into the adult life cycle,

The male adults usually emerge first and flutter around seeking mates.  The flightless females leave their cocoon shell and proceed to climb - often several feet, but sometimes only a few inches.  Upon mating, the female moth lays a mass of eggs and the lifecycle begins anew.

During times of large infestations, the state will conduct aerial spraying of a strain of Bt, a natural bacterium that is lethal to gypsy moths but non-lethal to most other species.  (Some private landowners may employ aerial sprayers that use insecticides.  This is discouraged due to the harmful effects to birds and other species. )  The aerial spraying is usually conducted on the areas with the most severe damage and in residential areas.  State forests and gamelands are often not sprayed.  This allows for natural predators to feed on the caterpillars in order to allow the predator populations to increase and help bring the gypsy moths under control.


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