Your want to know about swarming? Last year in late May and for the first half of June, we had the insects of Hell in our world. These are the European Gypsy Moths, brought here more than 150 years ago and accidentally released, from which point they have created a horror of our world of hardwood trees. They don’t do this every year. In fact, they are quiet and just annoying for anywhere from 25 to 30 years at a time, but for a couple of years, they swarm. Eat every leaf on every hardwood tree and then die.
It is the rapidly growing caterpillar of the Gypsy Moth. They invaded our oak woods last year, beginning as tiny, but growing enormous and ugly and hairy. And they are allergic, so if they brush your skin, there will be a lot of itching going on.
These voracious eaters can and will munch their way through the hardwood trees in the woods. I swear I can hear them crunching away at night. They eat night and day until they turn into moths. At which point they stop eating and eventually lay eggs and die.
I tried to knock all the caterpillars off the door so as not to bring a dozen or more gypsy moths crawlies into the house with me. This one refused to be knocked off and clung to the door jamb with all several hundred of his sticky little feet.
The birds apparently don’t like the way they taste. There are so very many of them! At least they are (mostly) leaving my fuchsia in peace.
GYPSY MOTH – LYMANTRIA DISPAR
Gypsy moth is an insect native to Europe and Asia that has been severely weakening trees across North America. Gypsy moth was introduced to North America in the late 1860’s near Boston and has spread over the past century. Despite the successful use of insect predators, as well as fungal and viral controls, gypsy moth populations do occasionally reach outbreak levels and continue to expand their range.
Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliate host trees, mostly hardwood species, such as: oak, birch, poplar, willow, maple and others. During outbreak years, nearly all broadleaf trees may be completely defoliated, caterpillars appear everywhere, and “frass” (caterpillar droppings) appear to rain from the trees. Adult gypsy moths are only seen in mid-summer when temperatures are above freezing. This species is known to infest trees in woodland or suburban areas.
Gypsy moths can be found throughout southern Canada, across the eastern and central United States, and most of the western states. Populations have been found in southern Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Each population varies annually and fluctuates with local conditions.
Impacts of Gypsy Moth
Defoliates and kills large amounts of trees, affecting the many benefits provided by trees.
Economic impacts affect all forest users.
Caterpillars may chew small holes in leaves or completely strip a canopy, depending on age and population levels.