Organism Report

Ecology of New England

Gypsy Moth

Gypsy moth

Lymantria dispar

General Information: The gypsy moth is an exotic species originally from Europe and Asia. Leopold Trouvelot, a French astronomer with an interest in insects, introduced it to the North American continent in 1869. Trouvelot wanted to study the moth and develop a strain of silk moth that was resistant to disease. Several gypsy moth caterpillars escaped Trouvelot's house and their descendents have wrecked havoc on the hardwood forests of northern America ever since. Even with control efforts and continued research, these moth larvae have persisted and even extended their range.

The male moth is smaller and a stronger flyer than the female. The male is brown with feathery antennae. The females are white with black markings.

Habitat: These moths, in all stages, are found in hardwood forests. Eggs are laid under tree limbs, bark, rocks and structures. Once the eggs hatch the larvae (caterpillars) begin their defoliation of the trees in order to feed themselves.

Range: The current gypsy moth range in North America (which has been spreading since 1900) includes all of the northeastern United States reaching as far south as parts of eastern Virginia and west to include Michigan and parts of West Virginia and Ohio. The projected spread of the moth is about 21 km per year to the west and south.

Reproduction: The caterpillars of gypsy moths hatch from eggs in mid-spring. These caterpillars are capable of feeding on 300 different types of trees and shrubs but they seem to prefer oaks. Both male and female caterpillars pass through five and six stages before entering the pupal (resting) stage in early to mid-summer. This pupal stage lasts for about 2 weeks. The male moths emerge one or two days before the females. After emergence, the females emit a chemical (pheromone) that attracts males and then mating occurs. The females then lay egg masses of 100-1500 eggs.

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