Gypsy moth caterpillars are invasive and devastating pests. If you plan on banishing them, look for natural ways to get rid of gypsy moths successfully.
Typically, gypsy moths appear when summer arrives. Moreover, their larvae munch on shrubs and trees voraciously.
European gypsy moth caterpillar arrived in the U.S. in 1869. Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, who imported them, believed he could use them as a great alternative to silkworms.
However, a few larvae escaped and multiplied. Then, the outbreak occurred in the late 1800s.
Since gypsy moths are destructive, you must cope with them. Find prevention and control methods for gypsy moth here.
Table of Contents
- Gypsy Moth Life Cycle
- Identifying Gypsy Moth Damage
- How to Get Rid of Gypsy Moths Naturally
- Use Scentry Gypsy Moth Traps
- Apply Homemade Gypsy Moth Spray Vinegar
- 4 Ways to Get Rid of Moth Caterpillar on Trees
- How to Eradicate Gypsy Moths in House
- How to Kill Gypsy Moths Outside
- How to Prevent Gypsy Moths
- Final Thoughts
Gypsy Moth Life Cycle
Watching gypsy moth caterpillar feasting on trees is unpleasant. Before eliminating them, you should learn about gypsy moth basics, including their life cycle.
Gypsy moths come out of their cocoons and start mating in late summer. While the males are excellent fliers, the females cannot fly.
They produce pheromones to lure the males, though.
The females can deposit up to one thousand eggs. They use body hairs to cover their eggs to drive predators away.
Usually, the fuzzy egg mass is about 2 inches long.
Surprisingly, the adults do not eat. Shortly after the male gypsy moths mate, they die. Then, the same thing happens to the females after producing the eggs.
The eggs of gypsy moths overwinter. Moreover, they will hatch in the spring when temperatures rise.
Tiny gypsy moth larvae then climb to the trees’ tops. They start to gorge on foliage and invade other trees.
In addition, the gypsy moth larvae munch on host plants from April to June. They primarily feed during nighttime to keep them from dealing with predators and extreme heat.
Once mature, the larvae stop feeding and transform into pupae. The adults appear after 7 to 10 days.
Every year, there’s one gypsy moth generation.
Identifying Gypsy Moth Damage
Before battling against ravenous gypsy moth caterpillar, you must start with the identification. If you misidentify them, you are likely to use the wrong methods and waste your time.
Below are the signs of gypsy moth infestation.
It is no secret that gypsy moths can defoliate over a million forested acres per year. Moreover, their larvae love to chow down on trees.
These pests prefer hardwood trees such as cedar, elm, white pine, spruce, willow, maple, and birch. Also, they are fond of oaks.
The caterpillar or larvae of gypsy moths invade hundreds of species. They cause leaf loss in plants.
Healthy trees only can withstand 1-3 years of total defoliation. If it continues, you can witness the death of your trees.
New transplants, saplings, and drought-stressed trees are the prone ones. They have no well-developed root systems and energy reserves.
Additionally, conifers are likely to die since they will not reproduce needles.
The Presence of Gypsy Moth Caterpillar
These caterpillars are the larvae of gypsy moths. At this stage, the gypsy moths become problematic because they feed actively.
The lengths of gypsy moth caterpillar vary from ¼ inch to ½ inch. When mature, they will measure 2 inches long.
Besides being super hairy, they boast twelve red dots and ten blue dots along their backs.
Gypsy moth caterpillar have no lookalikes. That means you are less likely to mistake them for other insect pests.
Moreover, where do gypsy moths live? These caterpillar usually dwell in the outdoors. Go inspect your turfgrass and garden plants regularly.
The adult females are creamy white, while the male ones are brownish-gray.
Also, the males are smaller than the female gypsy moths. These winged pests have a 1 ½ to 2-inch wingspan too.
Gypsy Moth Eggs
To positively identify gypsy moths, look for their eggs. Likewise, the females of gypsy moths lay yellowish eggs in masses.
You can find the egg masses of gypsy moths in trees’ crevices. In addition to occupying the tree trunks, the egg masses appear on solid objects like grills and boats.
A lot of frass or caterpillar poo indicates a massive gypsy moth infestation. In addition, you can find the caterpillar excrement on patios and decks.
After spotting their waste, you need to hose it off soon.
Although the caterpillars do not bite, you should handle them properly. Their hairs can affect your health by irritating the throat or skin.
After knowing the gypsy moth damage to humans and plants, you have to take serious measures soon.
How to Get Rid of Gypsy Moths Naturally
Gypsy moth larvae can devastate plants. Moreover, they usually think of gardens as their buffet.
Furthermore, there is no shortage of natural ways to get rid of gypsy moths. Here are eco-friendly methods to control them.
Use Scentry Gypsy Moth Traps
Adult gypsy moths will not cause defoliation. However, these gypsy moth traps help decrease egg production and disrupt their life cycle.
The traps include pheromone lures. Not only do they monitor gypsy moth populations, but also they keep the males from mating with the females.
These milk carton-shaped traps let you capture pesky pests swiftly.
They will not harm the environment, pets, and families. In addition, each pheromone lure lasts 1-1.5 months.
Hang gypsy moth traps in the early spring. These dreaded pests dine on plants actively from late April to August.
Apply Homemade Gypsy Moth Spray Vinegar
Vinegar is remarkable at managing many plant pests, including gypsy moths. It can banish them only within hours.
To make this spray, dilute 1 part vinegar in 3 parts water. Next, add in 2-3 drops of organic liquid soap.
It works excellently on gypsy moth caterpillar and other insect pests.
There is another homemade gypsy moth spray that deserves a go. However, it requires a backpack sprayer since it can cover an expansive area.
Pour equal parts of water and vegetable oil into the sprayer. Then, mix them with one tbs of dish soap or melted wax and 2-3 drops of food coloring.
Use the solution to soak gypsy moth nests. Avoid spraying so hard. To address the problem, spritz the mixture carefully.
4 Ways to Get Rid of Moth Caterpillar on Trees
Gypsy moth caterpillar are true enemies of trees. Therefore, implement these methods to keep the trees free from them.
1. Spray Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki
This biological pesticide specifically targets gypsy moths. It is terrific at controlling young caterpillar.
Apply the spray to the foliage of the infested trees.
For best results, use this pesticide in May when caterpillars are immature and less than an inch long.
If their populations are high, they require a few applications. Spray the pesticide every five days.
2. Monterey Garden Insect Spray
This spray contains a bacteria named spinosad. It will disturb the nervous system of gypsy moth caterpillar.
Moreover, the spray causes paralysis and destroys them within 1-2 days.
Spinosad in Monterey Garden Insect Spray is not hazardous to organic gardens. However, the bacteria can kill bees.
3. Apply Tanglefoot Insect Barrier
How to stop the spread of gypsy moths? Try using this product. It can control crawly insects such as climbing cutworms, armyworms, and gypsy moth caterpillar.
Tanglefoot Insect Barrier is ideal for vines and trees.
Before application, wrap the waterproof paper around the tree trunk. Next, block the surrounding crevices.
Apply this OMRI-listed product over the waterproof paper using a paddle or putty knife. Wait for the insect barrier to hinder the gypsy moth caterpillars’ movement.
Related: How to Get Rid of Caterpillars on Plants
4. Scrape Gypsy Moth Eggs Off
Once you see tan egg masses of gypsy moths, remove them shortly. Wear safety gloves because their fuzzy eggs can cause itching and rashes.
Do not scrape the eggs onto the ground to keep them from surviving.
Put the eggs into a bowl of soapy water. After 24-48 hours, dispose of the egg masses. For the adults, you must wrap the infested tree with burlap.
Then, throw these tiny beasts into the same solution.
How to Eradicate Gypsy Moths in House
Gypsy moths are bothersome pests that typically cover the house’s side. In addition, they can ruin the family picnic.
Some of you may be sensitive to gypsy moth caterpillar hairs. The following treatments stop the caterpillars from harming your beloved family members.
- Drown the Caterpillars
For high populations of caterpillars, you must hunt for them on the side of your house. Use a hose to knock the crawly pests down.
After sweeping gypsy moth caterpillars up, drown them in a container of soapy water. Consider squishing them too. It sounds messy yet effective.
- Sunbake the Eggs
Look for gypsy moth egg masses in late fall or winter. Check the door frames and window frames. After finding the eggs, collect them immediately.
Put the nasty egg masses in a plastic pouch. Next, let them die in the scorching sun. It takes too much time, but it offers satisfaction.
Also, it will decrease the number of gypsy moths next year.
How to Kill Gypsy Moths Outside
Gypsy moth caterpillars like to wander around patios. They are always in search of sheltered areas. You may find them under vehicles and between bark ridges.
The larvae of gypsy moths also hide on lawn furniture and toys. If you want a gypsy moth-free yard, do these things:
- Neem Oil
Does neem oil kill gypsy moth eggs? Yes, they do. Coat the egg masses and infested plants with neem oil. It is that simple.
- Bug Buster-O
This natural pesticide makes a terrific knockdown spray due to its pyrethrin content. Furthermore, it will not destroy ornamentals, flowers, and other plants.
To use it correctly, read the written instructions thoroughly.
AzaMax has a powerful insecticidal ingredient called azadirachtin. Furthermore, you can find azadirachtin in neem oil.
This spray inhibits the development and growth of pests like gypsy moths.
Additionally, the thing that you will love about AzaMax is it does not kill honey bees and other good insects.
- Horticultural Oil
If the gypsy moth eggs are uneasy to reach, utilize horticultural oil and let it do the job. Apply the oil according to the directions for use.
Horticultural oil helps you address numerous pest problems, including gypsy moths. Be sure to spray it properly.
Also, use this product in crevices. It will work tremendously after making contact with the eggs directly.
- Natural Predators
Use natural enemies of gypsy moths to collapse their populations. Trichogramma wasps, for example, parasitize their eggs.
These little wasps live inside gypsy moth eggs. Additionally, they feast on the eggs and destroy them eventually.
Also, birds will lunch on the caterpillars while eating the seeds.
To draw in birds, you should grow sunflower plants. Moreover, try installing a water fountain and placing a bird feeder in your yard.
How to Prevent Gypsy Moths
Prevention is better than treatment sometimes. Take these preventive measures to decrease the possibility of a gypsy moth re-infestation.
- Cover Piles of Wood
Homeowners usually stack woodpiles in summer and fall. However, the females of gypsy moths will find them attractive.
They use these spots to deposit their eggs.
No worries, you can utilize tarpaulin. It will effectively repel gypsy moths and their eggs from the yard.
- Keep the Yard Clean
Give your unsightly yard a great cleanup. Throw away dead branches and twigs. Furthermore, cut back the stumps.
These are the spots where gypsy moths produce egg masses. If you see the existing eggs, ruin them quickly.
Keeping the yard free of debris is crucial. It will prevent an unfavorable gypsy moth infestation in your outdoor space.
- Avoid Growing Gypsy Moth-Friendly Species
Do not plant the species that can lure in gypsy moth larvae. Citrus trees, oaks, ivy, and roses can increase the population.
Gypsy moths are an unpleasant occurrence in urban landscapes and forests. Their larvae, in particular, ruin more than 300 kinds of plants.
Avoid using hazardous chemicals because they are more harmful than helpful. Instead, try those eco-friendly treatments and take precautions to keep gypsy moths at bay.