Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gypsy Moth

Lymantria dispar
The story of the Gypsy Moth is quite the opposite from most of the conservation stories that I write about. Because, you see, we want to get rid of them rather than protect them.

Around 1868, an amateur entomologist from Boston named E. Leopold Trouvelot imported some Gypsy Moth larvae from France. His goal was to create a silk worm hybrid that was less susceptible to disease, but the insects got out, beginning a nearly 150 year effort to control one of North America's most dangerous invasive species.

So why are Gypsy Moths so bad? Afterall, they lived in Europe and Asia forever and didn't cause problems! Well you see, in their native lands Gypsy Moths live in balanced environments were the tree types and predatory species keep them from causing massive amounts of damage. In North America the Moths go after hard wood trees like oak and aspen, causing extensive defoliation, over a million acres a year! They affect literally hundreds of different plant species, which in turn can destroy the natural ecosystems.

In the past 100 years about 20 different animal species have been introduced that assist in controlling the Gypsy Moth populations, including the Metallic Green Ground Beetle, and the European Starling. Native predators like small mammals and other birds also help to control the Moths, but unfortunately, they are not enough. Insecticides and diseases have also helped, but overall the population continues to spread, though some isolated groups have been successfully eradicated.

IUCN Status :  Not Listed
Location : Originally found in Europe and Asia, now invasive to North America
Size : Wing length 25-35mm
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Lepidoptera
Family : Lymantriidae -- Genus : Lymantria -- Species : L. dispar

1 comment:

  1. All I know is that they are a pain in the neck. Some nights there are so many fluttering around the outdoor lights. A few less of them would certainly be nice.


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