GOSHEN, Ind. — This spring, Elkhart County experienced an outbreak of Gypsy Moth like we have never seen before. In fact, outbreaks occurred all over the northern tier of counties in Indiana in places that had never seen the pest before.
It’s a pest that drives people crazy. Thousands of larva hatch out, defoliating trees in a short period of time, and crawling all over the neighborhood. They are a dirty insect. Droppings rain down from the trees, covering sidewalks, cars, picnic tables, and anything else below. Pieces of uneaten leaves lie all over the ground. To make matters worse, once they complete the larva phase of their life, they crawl to anything sitting still and create a pupa (cocoon), where they turn into a moth.
The cocoons break open in 10-14 days. The female moths, so laden with eggs they cannot fly, climb trees, houses, swing sets, and the like, mate with the male moths, and then begin laying thousands of eggs on whatever is convenient. Each egg mass may have 500-1000 eggs, and each caterpillar within will eat 11 square feet of foliage. Doing the math, that means a single egg mass may harbor enough caterpillars to defoliate 5000 to 10,000 square feet of foliage the following spring! In other words, a single tree with an egg mass or two on it is very likely to be defoliated.
Because they drop to the ground and crawl about the neighborhood, a neighbor who does not have gypsy moth will likely have them by summers end. So when gypsy moth occurs in a neighborhood, I encourage folks to work together to solve a common problem. Otherwise, the potential is there for everyone to have a problem for a number of years if someone decides not to manage the issue on their own property.
There are things you can do to reduce the number of gypsy moth in 2019. This includes locating and destroying egg masses this fall, and getting your neighborhood organized for a battle come spring. If you would like to learn more about gypsy moth, and how to manage them, I will be having a meeting on Tuesday, October 2 at the Purdue Extension Office in Elkhart County, 17746 Co Rd 34, on the fairgrounds in Goshen. Enter the fairgrounds at Gate 2. The Extension Office is the first building on the right.
The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. We will start by taking a quick walk to look at some egg masses that are just feet away from the door of the office. After that, we will move indoors, talk about the life cycle of the insect, and how to manage it.
If you live in a neighborhood where gypsy moth were discovered this spring, consider attending the program.
— Jeff Burbrink, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
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