If you had case of biophilia and did got out this past weekend, you may have noticed how some tree leaves look a little chewed up. Especially the oaks? That’s the handy work of the Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar), an invasive species that has been around since the 1860’s.
Why is it a problem?The gypsy moth larvae and caterpillars feed on tree leaves. If populations are high, they can quickly defoliate a tree, especially their preferred food source: oak trees. Tt has defoliated over 500,000 ha/yr of trees. Defoliation, although not always harmful it itself, can have many harmful effects. Defoliated trees have reduced resistance to other harmful biotic and abiotic factors, such as drought. It can also affect the entire ecosystem by increasing carbon dioxide release and causing changes to succession patterns nitrogen cycling and watershed characteristics; all of which affect the local wildlife. They even affect us, as Gypsy Moths cause respiratory health concerns as caterpillars cause have urticating hairs and produce frass that irritate lungs.
Why is it so successful? It can use over 300 species as a host and feed on 500 plant species! Furthermore, many materials are capable of spreading egg masses and pupae of the Gypsy Moth; vehicles, campers, outdoor furniture, and even swing sets. This is why it’s so important to follow those rules about not transporting firewood.
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