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Gypsy Moths Invade Eastern
N.C.; You Can Help By Being On The Lookout
I have observed that gixtd soldiers
make good gardeners. This spring
we will see it' the reverse is true.
A battle of epic proportions is be
ing waged in southeastern North
Caiulina. i-'ire anis and mole crickets
are attacking from the south; the
European gypsy moth is slowly ad
vancing from the north; anil now the
Asian gypsy moth is attacking by sea.
Asian gypsy moths invaded
Brunswick and New Hanover coun
ties last summer in an attempt to
gain a Icghold on the east coast.
Asian gypsy moth larva defoliate
trees and shrubs. Repeated defolia
tion can induce a premature death
lor many of our native and orna
The enemy offensive begin last
July when a container ship docked at
the Military Ocean Terminal near
South port. Asian gypsy moths had
hitched a ride in cargo coming in
from northern I.uio|k\ Upon first
moth detection, the ship was sent
back to sea and a second ship in
transit was sent hack to Europe?but
the invaders were loose.
I"he North Carolina Department
of Agriculture detected and respond
ed quickly to this pest invasion with
pheromone trap monitoring and the
formation of a task force to prevent
the spread of this pest into the rest of
Asian gypsy moths feed on just
about any green plant material but
prefers certain species of trees and
shrubs. In the territories of the for
mer Soviet Union, entomologists re
port the Asian gypsy moth larva fed
011 over 6<K) species of plant.
Especially favored plant species in
clude the oak, larch, birch, poplar,
alder and fruit trees.
Scientists have observed that the
Asian gypsy moth grows faster and
causes more damage than the
European gypsy moth on white oak,
larch and paper birch but the experts
really do not know what plant
species will be most preferred by the
moths in eastern North Carolina.
The European gypsy moth was
first brought to Massachusetts in
1X69 but has since spread to over 16
states, causing major destruction of
forest trees during its 135-year occu
pation. The slow rate of attack of the
European gypsy moth is attributed
to the female moth. Female
Euiopcan gypsy moths do not fly
and lay their egg cache (containing
5(K) to l,(HH) eggs) close to the spot
where they emerged from the pupa
The Asian gypsy moth species
has "liberated" females. Female
Asian gypsy moths can fly. After
mating, female moths have been
known to travel up to 25 miles
which greatly enhances the spread
and intensity of an infestation.
Female moths of both species die
soon after the eggs are laid.
Gypsy moths are spread by natur
al and artificial dispersal. Newly
hatched caterpillars will climb to an
elevated location and generate a
silken thread which acts like a para
chute that carries the small larva up
to a mile from the hatch-out site.
Artificial dispersal occurs when
moths, caterpillars, pupa, or egg
masses are moved from an infested
area on cars, trucks, recreational ve
hicles, firewood, logs, or nursery
The traveling spirit of the female
Asian gypsy moth further acceler
ates the spread of this insect. Under
favorable conditions, experts esti
mate the Asian gypsy moth could
spread 36 miles each year!
Gardeners can help in the war
against the gypsy moth. At this time,
the infestation of the Asian gypsy
moth is confined to a small area at
the mouth of the Cape Fear river. A
massive effort to control the infesta
tion is being orchestrated by the
stale and U.S. Departments of
Agriculture with help from the N.C.
Cooperative Extension Service and
N.C. State University.
Beginning early in April, areas
known to be infested will be treated
with biological insecticides contain
ing either bacteria (Bt or Bacillus
ihuringensis) or nucleopolyhedrosis
virus (called GypChek).
Simultaneously, nearly 70 indi
viduals will be placing special pher
omone traps along predetermined
lines of defense. These traps do not
contain any pesticide but arc de
signed to attract and capture male
gypsy moths with a phcromone bait
(mating scent of the female moth).
Moths captured in these traps give
scientists monitoring the infestation
information concerning the magni
luile and scale of gypsy moth move
ments. as well as the effectiveness of
You can help by keeping a look
out for the invader. Ix?ok for a dime
to-quartcr-si/e buff-colored, firm-to
t he-touch egg mass that resembles a
piece of chamois cloth. Asian gypsy
moths are attracted to lights, so
check near porch or outside lights
for egg masses.
Adult male moths are a nonde
script brownish-black mottled moth
(I to .5 inches long) but females are
white with dark brown or black
flecking (1.5 to 2 inches long).
Caterpillars arc pale brown with stiff
brown and yellow hairs projecting
from the sides of the body. They
have four pairs of blue dots followed
by f> pairs of red dots along their
hacks. Full-grown caterpillars may
be 2 inches long.
The Asian gypsy moth does not
visually differ from the European
gypsy moth in any characteristic.
Scientists must use DNA profiling
technology to discriminate between
the two species.
If you see what you believe to be
a gypsy moth (egg mass, pupa or
caterpillar), then collect the insect in
,i small jar or vial. Attach to the con
tainer a label marked in pencil?the
location, date and time the specimen
was collected along with the collec
tors name, address and telephone
number. The specimen can be taken
to your local N.C. Cooperative Ex
tension Service for positive identifi
cation or call the (iypsy Moth Hot
I'or a color identification card and
more information on gypsy moth
identification, send me a SASE.
Send your gardening questions or
comments to the Plant Doctor, P.O.
Box 109. Bolivia NC 2X422.
Gressette Sod Farms
1-800-444-2993 FLORENCE, SC
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