Is there any way to control gypsy moths without spraying toxic chemicals?
Gypsy moths have been steadily advancing across North America since they were brought to Massachusetts in 1868, in an attempt to introduce a new strain of silkworms. (Young larvae of the gypsy moth produce silken threads that help them get carried on the wind to new trees.) Oak trees are their favorite food, but they eat the leaves of hundreds of species of plants. Fortunately, there are many nonchemical options to reduce the effects of gypsy moth larvae. Start by maintaining your trees and shrubs well. Fertilize and water as necessary to prevent them from becoming stressed. Trees under stress are attacked first by gypsy moth larvae. Seek out and destroy gypsy moth egg masses on your property. Female moths like to lay their eggs in protected places, such as under a flap of bark, in a woodpile, under the eaves of your house, and on boats, trailers, or RVs. Egg masses are laid in midsummer; they hatch the following spring. Place a sticky band around the trunks of trees to prevent young caterpillars from climbing into the canopy. Use a nonporous material coated with insect-trapping sticky material, available from garden centers and nurseries. Wrap a 12-18-inch-wide cloth hiding band around the tree at chest height. Fasten the cloth to the tree with twine, folding the top half of the cloth down over the bottom half. Caterpillars will gather under the cloth. Scrape them off into a bucket of soapy water to kill them. Spray young larvae with insecticidal soap. Older caterpillars are less affected by the spray but can be drowned in a bucket of soapy water. Spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). This naturally occurring bacterium paralyzes the digestive system of larvae as they feed. It is quite safe for humans and pets but will affect other caterpillars of moths and butterflies.
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