European Gypsy Moth
The European gypsy moth (EGM, Lymantria dispar) has been established for over a century in the Northeast United States and neighboring parts of Canada, where there is a coordinated program to contain its spread. Introduced in Massachusetts in 1869, EGM pose a serious threat to natural resources as the caterpillars are defoliators of both hard and softwood trees.
Approximately 75 percent of the nation’s hardwood forests lie outside the current European gypsy moth quarantine area. Unfettered spread of gypsy moth would result in severe environmental damage to forest vegetation and the wildlife that depend on the forest environment. Waterways would be adversely affected due to increased rates of erosion caused by accelerated runoff from the loss of vegetative cover. Increased incidents of flooding could occur downstream. Economic effects would also occur. Timber production would be negatively affected by gypsy moth defoliation. In addition, significant costs would be incurred by homeowners, landscape and Christmas tree enterprises, and local governments to suppress the pest population. Pesticide use would likely increase and, over an extended time frame, could result in additional risks to human health and environmental quality.
Severe GM infestation can result in loss of species diversity, degradation of natural habitat, and a loss of aesthetic value of landscape resources. By reducing the rate at which gypsy moth spreads, and by detecting and eradicating outlying infestations, the Gypsy Moth Program protects the Nation’s forests from this damaging pest.
The Gypsy Moth Program is an effective Federal-State partnership that prevents the establishment of gypsy moth in areas of the United States that are not contiguous to currently regulated States, counties, and townships. Within this partnership, the goal of APHIS-PPQ is to define the extent of the gypsy moth infestation and limit its artificial spread beyond the infested area through quarantine and an active regulatory program. The regulatory program enables us to control the movement of gypsy moth host material from gypsy moth infested areas to other areas of the United States, thus limiting the artificial, or human-assisted, spread of the pest. An intensive trapping program allows us to monitor the populations of this pest. The results of the trapping program allow us to identify new populations of gypsy moth and take action before they are able to become established in uninfested areas.
The Gypsy Moth quarantine currently includes the District of Columbia and the entire states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition, APHIS-PPQ regulates parts of Illinois, Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
EGM is a plain-looking insect that people would likely not notice if it were not for its caterpillar stage. A female moth lays a cluster of eggs (called an egg mass) on and near trees, and each egg mass can hatch up to a thousand tiny caterpillars with a ravenous appetite for leaves. They feed on over 300 species of trees and shrubs. The caterpillars feed for about six to eight weeks and then pupate in a protected area. After approximately two weeks, adult gypsy moths emerge, mate, and females lay eggs. After overwintering, the eggs hatch, and the cycle begins again. Gypsy moths produce one generation per year.