Gypsy Moth Caterpillars (Tent Caterpillars) in NH
Gypsy Moth caterpillars are native to Asia and
was accidentally released in Medford Massachusetts in
1869. Gypsy Moth caterpillars (not Gypsy Moths) are responsible
for defoliating nearly 2 million acres of trees every year.
Gypsy Moth caterpillars prefer hardwoods, Oak trees being their
favorite meal, but they will eat the leaves of just about any
trees, shrub or plant. There have been several Gypsy Moth
caterpillar outbreaks in New
Hampshire since the accidental release. Gypsy Moths caterpillars
generally have a population outbreak every 7-10 years on
average in New Hampshire.
Foliage Damage Due to Gypsy Moth
caterpillars are now
part of the natural environment here in New Hampshire. But once in a while the
Gypsy Moth caterpillar (tent caterpillar) population grows to a level that ruins the foliage during
the Summer, which in turn also ruins the Fall Foliage season for the annual leaf
peepers. New Hampshire depends on the leaf peepers, campers and Summer
vacationers that visit from all over the world to help support the state's
economy. But in 1981 the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar outbreak was so intense, there
were areas in the state that had no leaves left by August. A walk in the woods
provided little to no shade and the peaceful silence was interrupted by the
distant sound of these munching leaf eaters. You could actually hear the slight
crunching noise of the Gypsy Moth caterpillars eating the leaves on the trees!
The Fall Foliage season was a bust that year as was most of the Summer tourist
season. Campgrounds that are normally overflowing with campers looked more like
ghost towns, beautiful forests and woods were reduced to leafless branches. It
was a tourism nightmare.
Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Control
Landowners have been battling the
Gypsy Moth caterpillars for years. During the major outbreak that
occurred in 1981, landowners came up with their own home-made
solutions. Some of these solutions included doubles sided tape,
sticky molasses on tin foil and other sticky traps wrapped
around tree trunks. The marks left behind from covering the bark
on some of these trees can still be seen in some resident's front yards
in New Hampshire from that gypsy Moth caterpillar outbreak.
Other homeowners resorted to removing the branches with the
Gypsy Moth caterpillar's webbed nests by hand and burning them.
Gypsy Moths themselves do not do the damage to the foliage.
Females are typically white and the males are a tan color. The
female Gypsy Moth lays her eggs soon after mating. The eggs can
survive most New Hampshire Winters. Temperatures below -29
degrees F can kill vast amounts of Gypsy Moth eggs.