An infestation of the exotic European gypsy moth has been identified on Purdue University’s campus in West Lafayette.
Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of more than 300 different tree species, but prefer oaks. Indiana has more than 4 million acres of forest, 40 percent of which is oaks. Another 40 percent is other hardwoods – maple and hickory – which are second among gypsy moth’s preferred trees.
Outbreaks of the pest can cause heavy defoliation, which can stress and eventually kill host trees. The hairs on caterpillars also can cause skin irritation and respiratory allergies in humans.
Gypsy moth is now found in nine quarantined northern Indiana counties. The DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology has surveyed for gypsy moth since the mid 1970s. Since 2000, Indiana has participated in the multi-state Slow the Spread (STS) program, which detects and treats infestations.
This infestation falls well outside of the STS program area; however, the DNR will place these sites in its eradication program and plan treatments for spring 2014.
The infestation was discovered by a professor in the Purdue Entomology department. The origin of this infestation is unknown.
Officials from the DNR have placed burlap bands around selected trees to capture caterpillars, and installed tan-colored delta traps and green milk-carton traps in and around the infested area to capture gypsy moths. The public is asked not to tamper with either, to report any that have been knocked down, and to direct questions to DNR at (317) 232-4120. Survey crews will remove burlap bands by mid-July.
Gypsy moth egg masses, which resemble buff-colored, flattened, fuzzy patches about the size of a quarter, can be found on firewood and recreational vehicles. Campers and travelers from northern Indiana counties quarantined for gypsy moth are advised not to move firewood and to thoroughly check all camping equipment and vehicles for egg masses before traveling.
Found egg masses should be scraped into a bucket of soapy water.
More information about gypsy moth is at dnr.IN.gov/entomolo/4531.htm, the Gypsy Moth Slow The Spread website (gmsts.org), and the Purdue University Gypsy Moth Extension website (extension.entm.purdue.edu/GM/index.php).
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