Resurgence of gypsy moths in metro Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some Grand Rapids neighborhoods are a lot less shady this summer thanks to the return of a longtime nemesis: The invasive gypsy moth has invaded pockets of the metro area.

“You can see over here, we’ve got a pine tree they’ve even started defoliating,” Chris Kellogg showed 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

He and other residents along Shangri La Drive SE first noticed the bugs a few years ago. They’ve been hit especially hard this year, with the leaves stripped away on oak trees and the 143 other tree species favored by the gypsy moth

“It’s really devastating our neighborhood. We moved here two years ago because of the tree line and the canopy and the shade,” Kellogg said.

Gypsy moths, which are not new to the area, seem to come and go in cycles. The city of Grand Rapids, which monitors for the moths, noticed an uptick in parts of the city a couple of years ago. The population in some areas, including where Kellogg and his neighbors live off Kalamazoo Avenue south of 28th Street, has increased significantly this summer.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in activity,” City Parks Superintendent Joe Sulak said.

The problem begins in the fall, when the adult moths lay their eggs. The next spring, the larvae emerge.

“Usually in large numbers,” Sulak said of the larvae. “Those egg cases can hold anywhere from 500 to a thousand eggs. And then they’ll climb up trees and eat the leaves.”

It’s too late to do anything about the problem this year because the moths are now in their post-leaf eating caterpillar or cocoon stages.

Most trees rebound from the defoliation in a month or two, but a long-term infestation can weaken a tree, so the city has been working on a battle plan to deal with the larvae before next year.

It will use monitoring traps to track the adults as they mate so they can better pinpoint areas that may see more of the larvae next spring.

Many communities like Cascade Township take to the air to spray a nontoxic biological agent that kills the larvae. Other metro Grand Rapids communities, including Wyoming and Kentwood, have similar programs.

“What we are doing is reaching out to our surrounding communities and seeing what they are doing, seeing if we can emulate some of that,” Sulak said.

Grand Rapids residents who notice gypsy moths in their neighborhoods are asked to call the city’s 311 line.  

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