I entered a strange new world today – the world of monitoring for gypsy moths. Today’s mission: to boldly go where no gypsy moth sterile egg mass had gone before. Don Kitchen, an entomologist with our Pest Program, was captain of this mission and he let me tag along to see what it was all about.
|Don holding the sterile egg mass|
An egg mass is just what it sounds like – a fuzzy, mass of gypsy moth eggs that look a lot like piles of brown to cream colored cotton. We use them like a kitchen timer – when the caterpillars on a monitored egg mass begin to emerge, it’s a good sign that egg masses we haven’t found are also starting to hatch.
On a gray, rainy day, we drove south to Vancouver, where Don stopped to scope out potential locations, looking for one that was easy to reach but hidden from passersby.
Hidden but Accessible
|Stapling egg mass to a tree|
|Sterile egg mass on tree|
Egg mass monitoring provides the most reliable information about when caterpillars will emerge. An especially warm spring, for example, will result in earlier hatching of the gypsy moth caterpillars and require earlier treatment.
Tanglefoot is a sticky product that is put around the egg mass. If any newborn caterpillars try to crawl away from the egg mass before it is removed, they get stuck in the surrounding sticky goo. Our goal is to protect Washington from a gypsy moth infestation, so we don’t want any wandering off.
Before Don put the egg mass in place, it was sterilized. Sterilization provides another assurance that should caterpillars miraculously escape even the sticky trap, they won’t be able to reproduce.
GPS for Gypsy Moth
|Don logging the egg mass location|
With the egg mass placed and logged, it was time to pack up and head home. Now we'll wait to see how that egg mass develops and when it signals to the world that, "The caterpillars are coming!"
Don’t forget to visit agr.wa.gov/gypsymoth to learn more about this pest and our efforts to keep it out of Washington State.