Tree damage is caused by the insect larvae, or caterpillars, which emerge from their eggs beginning in early spring and continuing through mid-May. The larvae move to the leaves of trees and begin to eat, mostly at night. During daylight hours, larvae generally seek shade from the sun but feeding can occur in daytime in heavy infestations. Gypsy moth larvae grow by moulting, five moults for males and six for females. Feeding occurs in the “instar” stage or period between each moult. As might be expected, a caterpillar’s appetite increases with each moult. Feeding continues until mid-June or early July when the caterpillar enters the pupal stage emerging, finally, as a moth. Both male and female moths exist only to reproduce once with the male moths flying to find the females who are too heavy to fly. After the females lay their eggs from July to September, depending on location, moths of both sexes then die.
The gypsy moth caterpillar is not a fussy eater. It has a preference for the leaves of deciduous hardwood trees such as maple, elm, and particularly oak. Gypsy moths can also feed on apple, alder, birch, poplar and willow trees. As it grows it will also attack evergreens like pines and spruces. Gypsy moths appear to dislike ashes, sycamores, butternuts, black walnuts, dogwoods and balsams. However, during heavy infestations, competition for food will drive the caterpillar to attack almost any tree or shrub.
Depending on the degree of infestation, tree damage ranges from light to almost complete defoliation. Most deciduous trees can survive a moderate degree of defoliation. Many can even survive one complete defoliation by the gypsy moth caterpillar. However, continuing attacks can fatally weaken a tree or leave it vulnerable to other insects or disease.
For help saving your Connecticut tree’s from gypsy moth damage, contact Cutting Edge Tree Specialists today. We not only provide tree removal, but tree care services with over 20 years arborist experience.