- In North America, "Winter Moth" usually denotes the closely related Operophtera bruceata, but may also mean the less close relative Erannis tiliaria (Linden Looper).
The Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is an abundant species of Europe and the Near East and one of very few Lepidoptera of temperate regions in which the adults are active in the depth of winter.
The female of this species is virtually wingless and cannot fly, but the male is fully winged and flies strongly. Its wingspan is 28–33 mm with alternating pale buff and darker brown fascia on the forewings and a similar pattern, but much paler, on the hindwings. The adults are active at night throughout the winter from October to February. Males are strictly nocturnal and attracted to light and females.
After mating, females lay their eggs in tree bark crevices or in other sheltered locations, and all adults die. The eggs hatch in the spring when temperatures average around 13°C (55°F). After hatching, the young larvae crawl up tree trunks and produce silken thread that can carry them in the wind to new areas. This dispersal method, called "ballooning," is common among defoliators.
The caterpillars are green loopers with pale lines on the sides and a darker one along the top. They will feed on virtually any tree or shrub (see list below) and can be a serious pest in apple orchards. Generally, their feeding is completed by mid-June.
Winter Moths are considered an invasive species in North America; Nova Scotia experienced the first confirmed infestations in the 1930s. The moth is now found in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, the moths have attracted the attention of several media outlets due to the severity of the infestation. In northern Rhode Island, damage to fruit orchards has been attributed to winter moth, and it is now reported in mid-southern Rhode Island (Bristol/Barrington area and Warwick). Efforts at biological control are underway. There have been unconfirmed reports of infestations in southern New Hampshire.
Recorded food plants
- Acer - Maple
- Betula - Birch
- Calluna - Heather
- Carpinus - European Hornbeam
- Castanea - Chestnut
- Corylus - Hazel
- Crataegus - Hawthorn
- Cydonia - Quince
- Fagus - Beech
- Fraxinus - Ash
- Larix - European Larch
- Malus - Apple
- Picea - Norway Spruce
- Populus - Poplar
- Pyrus - Pear
- Quercus - Oak
- Rhamnus - Buckthorn
- Ribes - Currant
- Rosa - Rugosa Rose
- Rubus - Raspberry
- Salix - Willow
- Tilia - Lime
- Ulmus - Elm
- Vaccinium macrocarpon - Large Cranberry / American Cranberry
- Chinery, Michael, Collins Guide to the Insects of Britain and Western Europe, 1986 (Reprinted 1991)
- Skinner, Bernard, Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles, 1984
- The pest control of the chestnut tree by Dr Péter Szentiványi. Chestnut - Agricultural Publisher. For Sarkpont Cc., Hungary.
- "Mystery pests" Boston Globe (12/3/09) http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2009/12/03/invasion_of_winter_moths_has_scientists_residents_looking_for_answers/
- Hempe, Rudi (5 May 2011). "URI launches winter moth counter-attack". College of the Environment and Life Sciences. http://cels.uri.edu/news/nWinterMoth.aspx. Retrieved 10 December 2011.