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What to do if you spot a gypsy moth in cottage country

PARRY SOUND, ON- There’s been a rash of gypsy moth sightings in northwestern cottage country this summer.

Cottager Judy Madill had passed on a note of concern to the newsroom after a sighting of the invasive insect near her cottage earlier this month.

Madill had reported the bug sighting to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ Invading Species Awareness Program in Peterborough

“They advised that this is a wide spread problem currently, including Peterborough and urged us to encourage others to report if their area is affected,” said Madill, in her message.

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“It is helpful if you educate yourself (on) the life cycle to understand how your forest can be affected and what you can try to control the damage. Here is a picture of a gypsy moth and her egg sack deposited on a tree. She is white and cannot fly. The males are brown and can fly. The female dies after depositing her eggs and eventually falls from the tree. You may see only the eggs sacks”.

According to a live map of invasive species sightings in Ontario, maintained by the centre, there have been five confirmed sightings of the moth in the Parry Sound area in the last two years, with four this summer. There was another sighting to the east in Minden, in 2018.

Kate Powell, a terrestrial specialist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, the best thing people can do is document the sighting, and confirm with the authourities that it is the moth.

The insect is native to Europe and Asia and has been severely weakening trees across North America, after being introduced near Boston in the late 1860’s.

“Despite the successful use of insect predators, as well as fungal and viral controls, gypsy moth populations do occasionally reach outbreak levels and continue to expand their range,” read a provincial information bulletin on the creature.

“Gypsy moth caterpillars defoliate host trees, mostly hardwood species, such as: oak, birch, poplar, willow, maple and others. During outbreak years, nearly all broadleaf trees may be completely defoliated, caterpillars appear everywhere, and “frass” (caterpillar droppings) appear to rain from the trees. Adult gypsy moths are only seen in mid-summer when temperatures are above freezing. This species is known to infest trees in woodland or suburban areas.”

The province recommends the following:

  • Learn how to identify gypsy moth during its various life stages.
  • Egg masses can be easily controlled by removing and burning or soaking with soap and water mixture.
  • A band of either burlap or other cloth product wrapped around the trunk will provide a place for caterpillars to hide during the heat of the day. Check these bands regularly and scrape caterpillars into a container of soapy water.
  • Keep your trees healthy and better able to ward off attacks. In urban areas, water trees during dry spells and protect their root zone. In natural areas, good forestry practices will ensure healthier trees that are better able to withstand stresses such as defoliation.
  • Report sightings to the toll-free Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or email [email protected].

A map of the insect’s current range and reported sightings can be found here:

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