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tree insects in Niagara

Posted in Tips and Advice on February 16, 2023

Gypsy moth, a lifecycle

  • Kait Simpson
  • Kait Simpson

    Plant Healthcare Specialist

Gypsy moth, LDD moth, Spongy moth…. We’ve been over all the common names for Lymantria dispar. You know it’s here. You know you don’t want it in your yard. You know it will damage trees. But do you know how it does that? We thought we could take you through its life cycle.

Gypsy Moth Moths eggs normally Hatch in the spring from soft, fuzzy looking tan coloured masses. These masses are soft to touch and easy to remove. If you should have the desire to remove an egg mass, we recommend you do so with gloves, they are slimy!

The young caterpillars that emerge from the egg masses are attracted to light and will instinctively make their way to the top of a tree. From this treetop, it will begin to descend on a silken strand. This strand is easily broken with a gust of wind and the caterpillar will be transported to nearby trees. This wind transportation feature is how Gypsy moth can be so widespread. One larva can travel over 1.5 kms this way!

These caterpillars grow and begin to hide in dark places during the day and come out at night to feed on tree leaves. A single caterpillar can eat through 1 square metre of leaves. That’s about 12 full average sized Sugar Maple leaves. When you consider that a single egg mass can hatch 600 larvae, it’s easy to see how entire forests can be devoured so quickly.

Once ready, they enter the pupal phase. This lasts about two weeks during which they become moths. The female moths do not fly but exist simply to attract a male moth though a strong pheromone. The males fly to find a female, they mate, and then the male dies. A female will hatch lay her eggs in a tan coloured mass, winter hits, and it all starts back up again next year!

Now that you have gotten to know this moth a bit better, you can probably understand why it is so important to reduce its numbers.

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