Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: What’s Eating New England?

Gyspy Moth Caterpillar

Gyspy Moth Caterpillar

New England is experiencing a gypsy moth outbreak this year. The hungry hordes of caterpillars are munching the leaves of oaks and other deciduous trees leaving a landscape that looks like midwinter in the middle of July. This outbreak is described as the worst since the 1980s. The NWSBoston has posted aerial images of the defoliation.

As a Massachusetts resident in the early 1980s, I well remember the black rain of gypsy moth frass on my patio and the panicky homeowners worried about their landscaping. Fortunately, the damage is not long lasting as the outbreak sows the seeds of its own destruction. Fungal pathogens infect and kill gypsy moth caterpillars. When populations reach high densities, the fungus becomes widely transmitted throughout the caterpillar population. The fungus releases spores throughout the environment in large numbers. In subsequent years, this reservoir of fungal spores will infect a large fraction of caterpillars and prevent outbreaks. Eventually, the fungal load dissipates setting the stage for another “cyclical” gypsy moth outbreak. By 2017 or 2018 at the latest, the situation will return to low density gypsy moth populations.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Caterpillar Blogging, Environment, Invasive Species, News. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: What’s Eating New England?

  1. Pingback: Friday Cat-erpillar Blogging: What’s Eating New England? – Entomo Planet

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