5 rows of blue dots
6 rows of red dots
When gypsy moth
larvae are killed by pathogens, they often remain attached to the
trunk and/or branches of their host trees. This is probably related
to the behavior of mature larvae in that they feed at night and hide
in bark crevices during the day. They probably succumbed to the
pathogen while they were down on the tree trunk.
History of Gypsy Moths
Gypsy moths have
been a problem in the northeastern United States since their
accidental introduction here in the mid-1800s. Their common name
comes from the way they get around. Newly hatched larvae spin a long
thread of silk and are picked up and blown around by the wind.
Gypsy moth larvae
do not build nests, like eastern tent caterpillars, in the crotch of
trees or, as the fall webworms do, out on the ends of the branches
of host trees. They were introduced into Medford, Mass., and spread
south and west ever since. They are as far west as Wisconsin and
extend south along the Appalachian Mountains into Virginia.
When they first
arrive in an area, their populations skyrocket because their natural
enemies are not present or do not know yet that they like this new
food offering. They defoliate many species of trees, including oak,
apple, hawthorn, basswood, maple, elm and many others, including
conifers. Few species are safe when gypsy moth larvae populations
that are defoliated in three consecutive years often die because
they have spent all of their energy reserves by leafing out twice in
a single growing season. Conifers die after a single defoliation
because most do not have latent buds necessary to leaf out a second
naturally occurring enemies kick in -- including other insects,
birds, small mammals and pathogens -- a balance is achieved, and
they no longer seem like a biblical plague. Still, insect
populations are cyclical, depending upon favorable weather
conditions and abundant food sources.
White Oaks are a favorite food of Gypsy Moth
Pathogens such as
bacteria, fungi and viruses have been critical to getting gypsy moth
populations under control in our area. Drought years can decimate
pathogen populations and allow gypsy moths to gain the upper hand.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources had not conducted
aerial spraying since 2002. However, forest entomologists predicted
gypsy moth outbreaks in 2006 (based on egg mass counts, populations
and damage in 2005), and conducted aerial spraying in eight
counties, mostly in the northeast and north and south central
regions of the state.
laboratory analysis, it is impossible to say which pathogen killed
the caterpillars on your white oak, or if the spray application took
care of them. You are wise to protect a mature white oak, because
few of us could lose such a tree and live long enough to see its
replacement grow to similar stature.
If they aren't
too bothersome to look at, leave the dead larvae for a few more
weeks. They may continue to spread the pathogen to any surviving
gypsy moth larvae. By late July, you can safely spray them off with
a spray from the hose (NEVER use a pressure washer).
Dead Tops in Pine
Trees - White Pine Weevil