Following the arrival of the “murder hornets,” the state of Washington is facing another natural crisis. The state is now being warned about the gypsy moth, a non-native species. They’re the deadly cousin of the regular moths that you will often see. The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, issued an emergency proclamation to warn residents of the potentially destructive impact of an infestation. The moths can easily cause massive devastation to the country’s landscape and natural resources.
According to CNN, the proclamation read, “This imminent danger of infestation seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries of the state of Washington and seriously threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents.”
Now there’s another threat: a non-native gypsy moth. https://t.co/g4vVLtxkmp
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) May 8, 2020
The proclamation further revealed that the threat comes from both the Asian gypsy moths and Asian-European hybrid gypsy moths – two non-native species.
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “large (Asian gypsy moth) infestations can completely defoliate trees. This defoliation can severely weaken trees and shrubs, making them more susceptible to disease. Repeated defoliation can lead to the death of large sections of forests, orchards, and landscaping.”
Gypsy Moth caterpillars begin to emerge from their fuzzy brown egg masses in May. If you have seen these eggs masses around your property, now would be a good time to remove them before they hatch and begin to defoliate your trees. pic.twitter.com/ZmCX4Req90
— Invading Species (@invspecies) May 8, 2020
It is believed that these moths made their way over in ships, cargo containers, and some types of cargo coming from Asian countries where they’re known to exist. According to The Independent, officials have plans to conduct aerial spraying of a bacteria-based insecticide in order to prevent a full-blown infestation of the moths.
The moths have recently been detected in Washington State, Oregon, Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. In these states, surveys are being conducted in order to determine the size of the infestations and what course of actions are needed to address them.
According to the news outlet, female moths can lay hundreds of eggs at one time. These then grow into caterpillars that can eat their way through more than 500 different tree and shrub species. Furthermore, since the moths are capable of flying long distances, this means that the infestation can easily spread across the country in just a small amount of time – something that would have disastrous consequences for all native flora and fauna. Signs to look out for in your garden are egg sacs present on tree trunks, limbs, leaves, stones, walls, logs, lawn furniture, and other outdoor objects. These egg sacs are distinct in their appearance as they’re covered in a buff or yellow-looking fuzz, and usually measure an average 1½ inches by ¾ inches wide – although they can be as small as a dime.
We have all heard of Gypsy Moth the boat. This is Gypsy Moth the moth. Cool feathery antenna eh? New for my garden pic.twitter.com/wPbbGmznyB
— Bill Oddie Official (@BillOddie) July 29, 2018
Another sign of the gypsy moth’s presence is caterpillars feeding on tree and shrub leaves.
Thank you! I hadn't worked out what my visitor was until I saw your post. pic.twitter.com/KRQ9us9YTl
— Gwen Lawton (@GwenLawton1) July 29, 2018
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website states, “Newly hatched caterpillars are approximately 1/8 inch in length and tan in color. Mature caterpillars may range from 2 to 3½ inches in length and have two rows of blue and red spots on their backs. The mature caterpillar is most often a mottled dark gray color, but can vary from yellow to black”
And here is the caterpillar seen a month ago in our London garden pic.twitter.com/ZdI1x6er9C
— 🇪🇺 (@ian_stephens) July 29, 2018
The website further adds, “Adult moths are attracted to outdoor lighting and most active at dusk. Adult male moths have grayish-brown wings and a wingspan of 1½ inches. Adult female moths are white and larger, with wingspans of up to 3½ inches.”
Also, be sure you keep an eye out for defoliated trees – another sign of the moth’s presence.
At this point, I feel like 2020 is the schoolyard bully who desperately needs detention. When are we ever going to get a break?
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.