Spongy Moth Problem? Here Are Their Natural Killers In New York State
The spongy moth can cause serious damage to the environment in New York. But they do have several natural killers you should know about.
Scientifically referred to as Lymantria dispar dispar, the spongy moth was formally known as the gypsy moth. The Entomological Society of America changed their name in March 2020 as part of the Better Common Names Project. The invasive species in not native to New York and can reach high, destructive levels if they aren't controlled properly.
Though the spongy moth is destructive to trees in New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation says there are some things that naturally combat the rapid spread of these pests.
Fungi and Viruses
Large outbreaks of spongy moth caterpillars are usually closely paired with out breaks of Entomophaga fungus and the NPV virus. Both of these will kill spongy moths, helping slow their spread. On the positive side, they won't kill other caterpillars.
Caterpillars that are effected by the Entomophaga fungus will dry up, like those pictured in the photo. If you see them laying or hanging from a tree in an upside-down "V" shape, that means they've been killed by the NPV virus. If you see caterpillars that look like either of these, know your infestation is under control.
Defoliation Isn't A Big Risk
Experts from the NYS DEC say trees actually rarely ever die from defoliation alone. Spongy moths will typically eat and destroy broad-leaf trees. These include trees like oak, maple, and birch.
Luckily, all of these trees will have enough energy stored to create new leaves after defoliation. You will see young leaves start growing a few weeks following your moth infestation.
The DEC actually has a whole website dedicated to providing more information on the spongy moth. Check it out and find ways to better identify and handle spongy moths for yourself.