Spring is on the horizon, which means we can finally stop thinking about snow. It’s time to break out your lighter jackets and do a little gardening.
It’s also time to start considering the impact of invader species like the gypsy moth, an insect which threatens the ecosystem of Wisconsin and which may be hanging out in your own backyard soon enough. According to the DNR, when this ugly little moth really gets going it can defoliate entire forests…which means it can more than account for every leaf in your landscaping. They can feed on over 500 trees and shrubs of every kind.
Originally from France, accidentally released in Massachusetts, this species has been a problem across the country for over 150 years.
Fortunately the Department of Agriculture is doing what it can. They’re holding a series of open house meetings on March 13 through the 15th in various cities. The nearest one to our service area would be on March 14, in Menomonie. You can get more details here. This year, the DoA is planning on combating gypsy moths with a series of aerial sprays.
If you have a gypsy moth infestation you’ll start to see the caterpillars by mid-April. They’re distinct: black and red, with spiny gold tufts. Every time a female lays eggs they lay hundreds, which means an outbreak can be very difficult to control once it commences.
And dealing with the infestations are about more than spraying pesticides, though you may be able to find plenty of additional chemical and biological controls at your local garden store.
For example, keeping trees fertilized, watered, and properly pruned can ensure your trees survive any gypsy moth defoliation attempts. It’s also a good idea to remove favorable nesting and hatching grounds, such as old wood piles, burn piles or other large deposits of dead, loose wood which may be lying around your yard, like fallen branches.
Look for eggs early. You can kill them with a 50% soybean oil, 50% water solution. Don’t just scrape them, scrape them and spray them down. Preventing a hatching will go a long way towards protecting your trees while helping to prevent the spread of this species. Some experts suggest incinerating the eggs as well.
All of us can take steps to address the gypsy moth problem. The DoA seminar will be well worth attending. But if you can’t, make sure you’re at least keeping a close eye on your trees this spring.