2016 - Hundreds of Millions of oak and birch trees have been laid bare by the gypsy moth this Spring. The damage is widespread in Eastern Connecticut an all throughout Rhode Island. The gypsy moth is an invasive insect that, when in the caterpillar state, eats oak and birch leaves until the tree is bare. It has few predators to keep it in check in the United States because it evolved in a balanced ecosystem elsewhere. It spreads itself by crawling on the forest floor from tree to tree or hanging from a strand of silk and floating in the wind from tree to tree. There is a coevolved fungus that works in concert with an attached virus to kill the caterpillar. The virus / fungus combo coevolved with the species and have always kept it from becoming a plague in its home country. This fungus is already existent in moth populations and only requires rainy weather to be activated, (Fungus requires moisture to fruit and reproduce) The virus and fungus cause the moth to want to climb to the highest point on the tree, where it fixes itself on a branch and its gut explodes, raining the disease down on all the rest of the moths below it in a tree.
There are a couple organic remedies to try right now that target the gypsy moth. Wetting the the foliage of your tree with a strong hose may encourage the virus/fungus to spread from caterpillar to caterpillar. There is also a pheromone treatment that can be placed in your yard that confuses the male moths while they are looking for a mate. The moth stage of the caterpillar is the last and the respoductive stage and only lasts a few days. If they don't find a mate in that time, they die. There are what are called BIO RATIONAL pesticides that are safe for humans and utilize lethal bacteria to infect the caterpillar, but they kill ALL caterpillars, including native and rare monarchs and Luna moths. Later in the summer, after the moths have mated, take care to wash off any white egg masses that are laid on or around your house with soap and water, to kill the eggs and prevent the caterpillar from returning next year. Below is a news story made in June about the Gypsy Moth Invasion. The trees that they damaged will most likley survive and leaf out again in July, but it is a dangerous and energy reserve consuming situation for the trees. The trees that have been defoliated will be under severe stress for next year.
Gypsy Moths are a major and destructive problem this year in Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island