The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is a Federal and State quarantined leaf-eating insect that is a serious threat to many forest trees and ornamental plants. It is easily moved into new areas by unsuspecting people, as it will hitch a ride on vehicles and other outdoor articles.
The larva, or caterpillar, is the damaging stage of the insect as it eats leaves from trees in the spring. Caterpillars typically will be noticed when they are feeding on trees and ornamental plants in the month of May and early June. Gypsy moth is a pest of several hundred species of trees and ornamental plants. It prefers hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and maple; however, there are very few trees and shrubs that are not on the insect’s menu. A single gypsy moth caterpillar can consume as much as one square foot of leaves per day. When populations reach outbreak proportions, the caterpillars can completely defoliate trees over a wide geographic area, leaving a bleak winter-like landscape in their path.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, in concert with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and USDA Forest Service, collaborate to minimize human-assisted introductions of gypsy moth to protect the rural and urban forests of Iowa. The entire state is surveyed for the insect each year. Sites where the insect appears to be developing receive a mating disruption treatment to crash the growing infestation. For more information, go to IowaTreePests.com