HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — State experts are warning about an influx in gypsy moths this year, leading to more tree damage in West Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the invasive pest’s large population last year spawned more leaf-eating caterpillars hatching this spring.
CATERPILLAR HOT SPOTS
MDNR says while defoliation by the gypsy moth caterpillar is heaviest in Barry, Ionia and Washtenaw counties right now, residents will likely see localized damage within the next few weeks through mid-July.
Forestry experts with MDNR say gypsy moths target trees stressed by drought, old age and root damage, but rarely kill them. Experts say leaf damage typically happens the season following a drought-prevalent year, like the summer of 2018.
The good news: healthy trees will develop new leaves in July to replace those that were eaten.
HOW TO SPOT A GYPSY MOTH
Gypsy moth eggs appear in white masses that attach to any surface, including gravestones, tree trunks and branches.
Gypsy moth caterpillars are hairy, measuring up to 2 inches long. They have a white line running down their back with a pattern of blue and dark red spots. They prefer the leaves of oak and aspen trees.
Adult male gypsy moths are dark buff in color and fly. Female gypsy moths are white with dark, wavy markings and don’t fly.
PREVENTING THE PEST
While some communities in West Michigan have been spraying to kill gypsy moths, homeowners can also act.
MDNR says the top thing you can do to prevent the pest is maintain healthy trees — watering them regularly, avoiding damage to their roots and bark, and removing any dead and dying trees nearby.
If you encounter gypsy moth egg masses, experts say you should scrape them from the surface they’re on and submerge them in water containing dish soap. The larvae need to remain in the soapy mix for at least 48 hours.
Another method involves wrapping trees with duct tape to catch slithering caterpillars headed up the tree towards leaves.