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Gypsy Moths In North America

Gypsy Moths (Lymantria dispar) are native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. However, these pests now devastate ecosystems in the northeast United States and surrounding Canadian territories. As the population cycles between virtually extinct and an unthinkable amount of moths, it is essential to be fully aware of all shipments shipping to or from one of the 21 states where the pests reside. Whether you’re in the business of manufacturing, selling, or distributing lumber products, the cause for concern is increasingly high. Containing these moths in quarantined areas helps to stop the spread of this destructive species.

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gypsy moths

What Threat do Gypsy Moths Pose?

Gypsy Moths, also known as “spongy moths,” pose a substantial economic and ecological problem. These pests feast on hardwood trees, leaves, and other plants at alarming rates. Over five hundred variations of plants can be easily stripped of their leaves and left for dead due to their inability to accomplish photosynthesis. In addition to the destruction of natural and urban areas, the Gypsy Moth’s reign affects the surrounding plant and animal life directly and indirectly. As a result, tree defoliation along streams causes a rise in water temperatures. Fish and other aquatic life can even suffer due to the damage that Gypsy Moths cause. 

Preventing the Spread of Gypsy Moths

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has devised a document used to inspect shipments before crossing into quarantined states and territories. This inspection can either be done by the shipper or by a professional, and the checklist must accompany all shipments to ensure there aren’t any egg pods when it crosses into the protective territories. The reason this is an effective mode of quarantine is because

If you are moving from an area in quarantine due to Gypsy Moth infestation, it is a requirement by law to inspect all goods you are transporting out of the state. In North America, the territories most protective of their ecosystem to the moths are Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia, California, Hawaii, and Washington.

Quarantined States

For the complete list including all of the specific counties quarantined in each state, click here.

Importing From Another Country

Many ships import from areas regulated for Gypsy Moth infestation during risk periods. When these ships carry cargo from infested areas, it is mandatory that the vessel undergoes inspection both before the shipment leaves the port, and before the ship arrives at its destination. All incoming vessels must undergo inspection and certification proving the ship is free of Gypsy Moths. Before the shipment takes place, forward a copy of the certificate stating that the vessel is clear of all life stages to the vessel’s North American shipping agents for documentation. A certificate is valid until the ship stops at another port in a regulated area during high infestation periods.

When a ship arrives in North American ports free from Gypsy Moths. To avoid being called out of port for cleaning, perform self-inspections to look for and properly dispose of all life stages of Gypsy Moths before entering North American waters. Infested ships that travel too close to international waters are also a risk to that country’s ecosystem. Ships that undergo cleaning before reaching the shipping port are cleaned while still at sea, away from shore keeping the spread risk to a minimum

The following link is a guide of procedures international shippers must follow to transport to North America provided by the USDA.

Shipping Lumber And Firewood

Lumber and firewood are largely domestic and worldwide imports. Logs, stumps, and branches of trees are used for construction, fuel, or even decoration. When shipping wood from any areas under Gypsy moth quarantine, all lumbar must undergo a thorough inspection. Female Gypsy moths lay their egg masses in sheltered areas typically underneath the bark of a tree. These eggs can lay in quantities of 500-1000, which means one pod of eggs entering a protective area can cause catastrophic deforestation. The color of these egg pods can have a similar color to the bark of the tree and could easily be overlooked. To prevent the spread of these insects, locate, remove and, dispose of all eggs, larvae, and adult moths.

Gypsy moth larvae prefer to feed on oaks, aspens, willow, and basswood. Although conifer trees (Christmas trees) are not the favorite of the larvae, it is still often that a whole harvest of Christmas trees is rejected due to the sighting of Gypsy egg masses.

Northeastern America has undergone cycles of infestation of the insects since 1869 through a shipment into Massachusets. They were brought to America to breed a new variation of the silkworm. In the U.S. 21 states have areas quarantined due to the Gypsy Moth infestation:

Be Aware Of Gypsy Moths When You Move

Quarantined Territories (Canada)

Eastern Canada was introduced to these moths in 1912 from a shipment of birch trees from Japan. The quarantine caused by the Gypsy Moth in Canada covers most of the area of these territories:

Gypsy Moths In North America
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Life Cycle of Gypsy Moths

The Gypsy Moth grows as a new generation each year. They grow in 4 developmental stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. After they hatch from their eggs (8-9 months), the larvae eat upon leaves of plants or trees along with the other 500-1000 eggs that they birth with. Unlike many other moths and butterflies, adult Gypsy Moths don’t feed. The only function of an adult Gypsy Moth is to reproduce.

Population Fluctuations

Gypsy Moth community will go through cycles in which the populations will fluctuate based on their environment. The population will increase for several years then decline and then increase again. Outbreaks can occur in ten-year cycles, but the moth population in local areas will remain high for another two to three years.

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