Monday, April 4, 2016

Imagine a gypsy moth spring

Karla Salp
Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

A sunny day in spring beckons many to enjoy time outdoors. But it isn’t only enticing humans. Now is when gypsy moth caterpillars start to emerge from egg masses and begin causing all the problems for which they are so loathed.

Just what is it like to live in an area infested with gypsy moth when spring time rolls around?

Creepy Crawlies

Each gypsy moth egg mass can contain up to 1,000 eggs. In infested areas, trees and other outdoor surfaces can be covered with egg masses. When the eggs hatch and gypsy moths begin to feed, the caterpillars can literally cover trees, houses, play sets, cars – any outdoor (and sometimes indoor!) surface. Check out this video by a homeowner in another state recording the gypsy moth caterpillar infestation at his house.

A serious infestation can result in so many caterpillars, they can fall from trees on anyone walking outside. Imagine picking them out of your hair as you walk to your car or bus stop.

Chewing With Their Mouths Open 
Gypsy moth caterpillars

We’ve all been taught to chew with our mouths closed. This lesson apparently isn’t passed on to gypsy moth kids. When the caterpillars eat, leaf bits fall from the trees. In outbreaks, residents have even reported hearing the gypsy moths chewing on leaves – day and night.

Raining Poop

That’s right. So many caterpillars eating so much that it literally “rains” caterpillar poop. Don’t believe it? One man recorded the phenomenon in this short home video.

The Gypsy Moth Sting
Caterpillar "sting" by WikiHow User Flickety

Gypsy moth caterpillars can cause eye, skin, and lung irritation. Some people are allergic to the caterpillar hairs with reactions that include stinging rashes or blisters, as shown in this photo.

These are just a few of the ways that gypsy moths can damage quality of life, beyond the ecological harm they inflict. At WSDA, the Pest Program has successfully prevented the gypsy moth from ruining our springs for 40 years.

Want to learn more? We tried to paint a picture for you in our latest gypsy moth video, and you can hear from people who have lived with the gypsy moth in our old gypsy moth video, as well. Of course, you can always visit our website at for more information.