Brief Summary

    Lymantria dispar: Brief Summary
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     src= A Lymantria dispar caterpillar

    Lymantria dispar, the gypsy moth, are moths in the family Erebidae. Lymantria dispar covers many subspecies, subspecies identification such as L. d. dispar or L. d. japonica leaves no ambiguity in identification. Lymantria dispar subspecies have a range which covers in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and South America.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    Lymantria dispar, the gypsy moth, is an invasive species in the United States, introduced from Europe in 1868 by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, a French artist and astronomer. Trouvelot was interested in producing a hardy silk producing moth, and imported L. dispar eggs which escaped into his back yard in Medford, Massachusetts. Shortly after this, in 1889, the first gypsy moth outbreak in the United States occurred in the Boston area. Gypsy moths have since spread throughout the Northeast, Canada, and the Midwest, despite huge efforts to eradicate this pest. An outbreak of gypsy moth caterpillars can very quickly and effectively defoliate forests. Spread of this species represents a significant risk especially to hardwood trees, their preferred hosts, but since the gypsy moth has a wide diet, most types of trees are affected. Since 1980, the gypsy moth has defoliated about a million forested acres each year. Infestations occur cyclically, with populations reaching outbreak levels every 5-10 years.

    The USDA has a coordinated Federal-state program to control populations and limit at least the human propagated spread of the Gypsy moth from currently quarantined states into new areas. The Gypsy Moth quarantine currently includes the District of Columbia and the entire states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. As well as spreading in concert with humans, populations can naturally spread by female moths flying to uninfested areas, or at the larval (caterpillar) stage, which are carried on the wind by their silk threads.

    The government has developed another interesting control program which sprays effected areas with an engineered baculovirus, which is very effective in killing the caterpillars. The baculovirus works by changing the nocturnally-feeding caterpillars behavior, so that they remain high in the forest canopy instead of their usual return to daytime hiding places on the ground. When the virus then kills the caterpillar, the caterpillar's flesh dissolves and the virus rains down from the top of the tree and is widely spread to other caterpillars below.

    The asian subspecies of Lymantria dispar, although similar to the European subspecies described above, has never become established in North America. Because it is a stronger flier than the European subspecies, and presumably could quickly spread throughout the US, it is considered a major threat and carefully monitored at likely entry pathways.

    (Aphis-USDA 2003; Aphis-USDA 2011; Hamilton, 2011; Hoover et al. 2011; Liebhold 2003; McManus et al 1989)

Comprehensive Description

    Lymantria dispar
    provided by wikipedia

    A Lymantria dispar caterpillar

    Lymantria dispar, the gypsy moth, are moths in the family Erebidae. Lymantria dispar covers many subspecies, subspecies identification such as L. d. dispar or L. d. japonica leaves no ambiguity in identification. Lymantria dispar subspecies have a range which covers in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and South America.


    Common name Subspecies Distribution Identifying characteristics European gypsy moth Lymantria dispar dispar Europe, western Asia and north Africa[1]:6 Females winged but flightless[1]:6 Asian gypsy moth Lymantria dispar asiatica Eastern Asia,[1]:6 western North America[2] Flying females; attracted to lights[1]:6 Japanese gypsy moth Lymantria dispar japonica All of Japan[1]:6 Large males, very dark brown color[1]:6

    The European gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) is native to temperate forests in western Europe. It had been introduced to Canada in 1912 and in the United States in 1869.

    The Asian gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar asiatica) is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, Asia and Pacific. It is spreading to northern Europe (Germany, and other countries), where it hybridized with the European gypsy moth. A colony had been reported from Great Britain in 1995. It has also spread to North America since the early 20th century and is considered to be invasive to that continent.

    This moth is an important defoliator on broad-leaf and conifer trees.[3]

    In North America a biological control was introduced. Ooencyrtus kuvanae is a parasitoid wasp of Lepidoptera eggs. It parasitizes the eggs of other moths, not just this species.[4][5]


    The order Lepidoptera contains moths and butterflies characterized by having a complete metamorphosis; larvae transform to pupae and then metamorphosing into adult moths or butterflies.[6]:9 The family is Lymantriidae.[6]:9 Lymantriid larvae are commonly called tussock moths because of the tufts of hair on larvae.[6]:9

    The meaning of the name Lymantria dispar is composed of two Latin-derived words. Lymantria means 'destroyer'.[7] The word dispar is derived from the Latin word that means 'to separate' and it depicts the differing characteristics between the sexes.[6]:9

    The North American gypsy moth and the European gypsy moth are of the same subspecies, often listed as Lymantria dispar dispar.[1]:6 Confusion over the species and subspecies, for classification still exists. The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines the Asian gypsy moth as "any biotype of Lymantria dispar possessing female flight capability",[1]:5 despite Lymantria dispar asiatica not being the only classified subspecies that is capable of flight.[1]:6 Traditionally, Lymantria dispar has been referred to as "gypsy[why?] moths" even when referring to Japanese, Indian and Asiatic gypsy moths.[1]:5


    1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pogue, Michael. "A review of selected species of Lymantria Huber [1819]" (PDF). Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. Retrieved September 14, 2012..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
    2. ^ "Asian Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar asiatica". Pest Tracker National Agricultural Pest Information System. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
    3. ^ FAO - Profiles of selected forest pests
    4. ^ [1] Entomology, Wisconsin
    5. ^ [2] Literature Review of Ooencyrtus Kuvanae: (Encyrtidae) an Egg Parasite of [i]Lymantria dispar[/i][/url]. Entomophaga
    6. ^ a b c d The Gypsy Moth: Research Toward Integrated Pest Management, United States Department of Agriculture, 1981
    7. ^ Free Dictionary for Lymantria


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Gypsy moths are native to southern Europe, northern Africa, central and southern Asia, and Japan. They have spread quickly since their introduction to the United States and Canada in 1869, and are especially prevalent in the northeastern United States.

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )

    Other Geographic Terms: holarctic


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    Adult male gypsy moths are light brown with dark brown wings, which have a series of black bands down their lengths. Male antennae are feathery in texture and appearance. Adult females are slightly larger than males and are mostly white, also with a few dark bands on the wings. Female bodies are covered with tiny hairs and their antennae are thread-like in texture and appearance. Gypsy moths are 15 to 35 mm long on average, with a wingspan of 37 to 62 mm. There are three subspecies, which are European, Asian, and Japanese. Although all three are similar in appearance, Asian gypsy moths tend to have the largest larvae.

    Newly hatched larvae are black, hairy caterpillars, and as they age, they grow two rows of blue, then red, spots on their backs. Each spot has a patch of yellow or brown hair growing out of it. Legs of larvae are dark red.

    Range length: 15 to 35 mm.

    Range wingspan: 37 to 62 mm.

    Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

    Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes colored or patterned differently


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    Gypsy moths are terrestrial animals that are only found in temperate forests or wooded areas (natural or artificial) in which their primary hosts comprise more than 20 percent of the total area.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: forest

    Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
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    Gypsy moths are herbivores that feed on the leaves of over 500 species of trees and shrubs. Their preferred sources of food are oak (Quercus), alber broadleaf trees (Alnus rubra), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga), and western hemlock needle trees (Tsuga heterophylla). Because adults do not have fully-developed mouthparts, larvae are the only life forms that feed on their hosts.

    Plant Foods: leaves

    Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )


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    Gypsy moths are defoliators of trees and forests. They are dependent on host trees for survival, and increased dependency results in increased defoliation. The preferred host for the moths is oak trees (Quercus), but most species of trees (especially hardwoods) and shrubs are inhabited. However, they are not found on ash trees (Fraxinus), tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera), or sycamore trees (Platanus), and rarely found on black walnut trees (Juglans nigra).

    When gypsy moths continuously feed in one area, outbreaks can occur in four-phase population cycles. The innocuous phase is characterized by very low population levels, and can last for multiple years. The release phase lasts 1 to 2 years and results in rapid increases of moths. Next, the outbreak phase leads to high levels of tree defoliation for 1 to 2 years. Finally, starvation and disease lead to the decline phase, and population levels drop back to those of the innocuous phase.

    Gypsy moth populations are also subject to disease. Wilt disease, caused by the nucleopolyhedrosis (NPV) virus, kills moths in both the larva and pupa stages. It is the most harmful natural disease of gypsy moths.

    Species Used as Host:

    • Several hundred species of trees and shrubs are used as hosts by gypsy moths.
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    When population numbers are low, gypsy moths have many natural predators. Some of these include wasps (Hymenoptera), flies (Diptera), ground beetles (Carabidae), ants (Formicidae), and spiders (Araneae). Birds like chickadees (Paridae), bluejays (Cyanocitta cristata), nuthatches (Sitta), towhees (Pipilo), and robins (Turdus) also consume and compete with them. In addition, mammals such as white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), shrews (Soricidae), chipmunks (Tamias), squirrels (Sciuridae), and raccoons (Procyon lotor) are considered predators. When population numbers are high, additional predators are attracted to densely populated areas of gypsy moths. These include Calosoma beetles (Calosoma semilaeve), cuckoos (Cuculidae), starling grackles (Onychognathus tristramii), and red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus).

    Known Predators:

    • wasps (Hymenoptera)
    • flies (Diptera)
    • ground beetles (Carabidae)
    • ants (Formicidae)
    • spiders (Araneae)
    • chickadees (Paridae)
    • bluejays (Cyanocitta cristata)
    • nuthatches (Sitta)
    • towhees (Pipilo)
    • robins (Turdus)
    • white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus)
    • shrews (Soricidae)
    • chipmunks (Tamias)
    • squirrels (Sciuridae)
    • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
    • Calosoma beetles (Calosoma semilaeve)
    • cuckoos (Cuculidae)
    • starling grackles (Onychognathus tristramii)
    • red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus)

    Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic


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    Gypsy moths, like most other insects, perceive their environment by sight and tactile organs like legs and wings. In addition, gypsy moth larvae are able to perceive ultraviolet light from the sun. After they hatch from their eggs, they are attracted to this light and can move up their host trees. Eventually, they end up in the canopies, where they can be dispersed by wind.

    One way in which gypsy moths communicate with each other is by the use of chemical sex pheromones, which are released by the female abdominal glands in order to attract males. The pheromone released by female moths is known as disparlure (cis-7,8-epoxy-w-methyloctadecane). Sufficient research about its structure and function has been performed in order to allow it to now be synthesized in laboratories.

    Communication Channels: chemical

    Other Communication Modes: pheromones

    Perception Channels: visual ; ultraviolet; tactile ; chemical

Life Cycle

    Life Cycle
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    There are four stages in the metamorphic life cycle of gypsy moths: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid in July or August, on the trunks or branches of trees. After 4 to 6 weeks, the embryos develop into larvae. These larvae undergo diapause as eggs throughout the winter, and hatch in the spring of the following year, according to the budding cycles of the hardwood trees on which they are laid. As they grow older, larvae pass through a series of molting events, each one resulting in an increase in size. The stages in between molts are called instars. Gypsy moths typically undergo five or six instar stages before they become pupae, which happens in June or July. The pupa stage typically lasts 7 to 14 days. After pupation, males emerge first, usually 1 to 2 days before females. Mating occurs after adult females emerge, and then eggs are laid. Both parents die after the eggs are laid, and the cycle repeats.

    Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis ; diapause

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
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    Gypsy moths are seasonal breeders, laying eggs approximately once per year. Therefore, life expectancy is 12 months. The egg stage lasts for approximately 8 to 9 months. Gypsy moth larvae live for about 2 to 3 months before entering the pupa stage, which lasts for approximately 2 weeks. Adults live for about 1 week before they lay new eggs.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    12 months.


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    Mating begins when female gypsy moths release a sex pheromone from their abdominal glands, which attracts males. Mating lasts approximately 30 minutes, and females lay their eggs within 24 hours of mating. Males are polygynous, but females mate with just one male because their pheromones cannot be released if multiple matings occur.

    Mating System: polygynous

    Adult gypsy moths breed once per year, usually in July or August. Females typically lay about 1,000 eggs per breeding season on tree trunks and branches. Although it only takes about one month for larvae to develop inside of the eggs, they usually do not hatch for 8 or 9 months. After hatching, larvae are attracted to light, and move up their host trees by spinning silk threads. They spend much of their lives in tree canopies, until they reach the pupa stage, which is typically spent in a silk net on or near the host tree. After pupation, it only takes about about 2 weeks for adults to form, which is when the next mating cycle occurs. Overall, gypsy moths reach sexual maturity in about 11 months.

    Breeding interval: Gypsy moths breed once yearly.

    Breeding season: Females lay their eggs in July or August.

    Average eggs per season: 1,000.

    Average gestation period: 8 months.

    Range time to independence: 8 to 8 weeks.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 11 months.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 11 months.

    Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

    Adult gypsy moths only live long enough to ensure that the female's eggs are successfully laid on host tree trunks and branches. The female lays her eggs close to the spot where she pupated. Once the eggs are secure on the trees, both of the parents die. When the larvae hatch from their eggs, they are left to fend for themselves.

    Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
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    Gypsy moths are not endangered, vulnerable, or threatened. In fact, they are such major pests that there are extensive efforts to eradicate populations from parts of North America. Programs have been created to trap adults and larvae, destroy egg masses, and apply insecticides to locations where the moths are major defoliators.

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: no special status

    State of Michigan List: no special status


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    Gypsy moths are notorious for their ability to defoliate almost any kind of tree. If more than 50 percent of the crown of a tree is destroyed, it will probably die. Some hardwoods can survive one or two defoliation events, but additional ones are usually fatal. Gypsy moth defoliation is harmful because the process of refoliation involves a heavy consumption of energy by the rebuilding tree. In addition, weakened trees are more susceptible to attack by viruses and parasitic insects.

    Extreme defoliation leads to lost revenue due to lack of timber harvesting, cost of dead tree removal, and decreased property values in certain areas. In addition, defoliation eventually leads to deforestation, which can lead to flooding and loss of biodiversity. It is estimated that gypsy moths have destroyed 30 million hectares of forest in the United States since 1970, and this damage costs the forest industry millions of dollars per year. Unfortunately, the defoliation is getting worse over time. Gypsy moths already cover most of the eastern United States, and spread anywhere from 3 to 10 miles per year. At this rate of dispersal, they are expected to cover half of the entire United States by 2015. Finally, gypsy moths can also have direct impacts on humans. Some people are allergic to the hairs found on larvae, and exposure can lead to unpleasant side-effects.

    Negative Impacts: crop pest

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    Gypsy moth defoliation can benefit humans by opening up forest canopies and by reducing overcrowding of trees on homeowner's properties.