Connecticut experienced its worst gypsy moth invasion in recent memory in the spring of 2017, and the invasive insects are expected to return to our area again this season. Prior to turning into moths, the insects start their lives as caterpillars that feed on leaves and cause extensive damage to trees. They tend to have particularly voracious appetites for oak species and other hardwoods. The USDA estimates that gypsy moth caterpillars have defoliated more than 83 million acres of land in the U.S. since 1970.
Gypsy moth populations in Connecticut have swelled in recent years due to a series of dry growing seasons. In years with more rainfall, their populations are typically controlled by a fungus that kills the caterpillars before they’re able to lay eggs. This year’s gypsy moth invasion probably won’t be quite as bad as what we experienced last year, but it’s still worth taking precautions to prevent trees from being devoured by the caterpillars this spring.
The good news is, there are a number of safe, effective strategies you can employ to control gypsy moth invasions on your property.
One technique involves wrapping pest barriers around tree trunks that are designed to prevent gypsy moth caterpillars from moving in and out of tree canopies. You can also apply a naturally-occurring soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis (marketed as Monterey B.T.) to the leaves of trees affected by gypsy moth caterpillars. This organic pesticide is effective at killing caterpillars, but it won’t harm birds, pollinators and other beneficial insects. AzaMax, which contains the insecticidal ingredient found in neem oil, is another popular organic pest control option with a fairly minimal environmental impact. Just try not to spray it on flowers where it might be ingested by pollinators.
Still have some lingering questions about what you can do to protect the trees on your property from invasive insects? Feel free to give us a call or contact us online today!