DNR asking for assistance to curb growing gypsy moth populations

A photo of a gypsy moth caterpillar at work eating leaves.
A photo of a gypsy moth caterpillar at work eating leaves.(Bill McNee, DNR)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 2:38 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - For a second consecutive year, populations of an invasive pest have increased around the state. That pest is the gypsy moth, and the DNR is now asking for your help to keep them in check.

A few simple steps can protect the trees around your home from hungry, leaf-eating gypsy moth caterpillars in the spring.

After first appearing in Door County in the late 1980′s, gypsy moth populations increased and the first statewide outbreak occurred in the early 2000′s. Another one followed about a decade later.

“Many local residents will remember the burlap bands, the nuisance caterpillars, the airplane flying around, we have had about a decade of low populations and thanks to a couple mild winters we are overdue for a return of the gypsy moth caterpillars,” says Bill McNee, DNR Forest Health Specialist.

That’s exactly what is happening, and McNee says he is receiving a lot of calls from concerned homeowners.

“Where gypsy moth problems tend to show up first are on oak trees growing on mowed lawns, in more natural areas mice and other predators help keep the numbers down and the population usually doesn’t get as high,” explains McNee.

Gypsy moths lay their eggs over the summer -- meaning fall is the time to act.

“Now is a good time to get out and look at your trees and look at your birdhouses, your firewood piles, your fences to remove any of the gypsy moth egg masses that a present,” says McNee.

Those masses are tan colored, about the size of a nickel or quarter.

“It’s very easy to scrape it into some soapy water and let it soak for a few days and then it can be thrown in the trash, or you can buy a number of horticultural oils that will suffocate the eggs inside and they won’t hatch in the spring, each of the egg masses contains 500-1,000 eggs, so for a few minutes work you can literally remove thousands and thousands of caterpillars from your trees next summer and help your trees,” says McNee.

McNee says healthy trees are likely to survive gypsy moth defoliation, but older trees, or those under any kind of stress often die.

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