* Caterpillars black, yellow, and white, with pencil-like tufts of hair
on both ends, and thick tufts all along body, 1-3".
* Female adult brownish, with plume-like antennae.
* Male white and black.
* Thick, furry bodies.
* Body length: 1-3".
* Habitat: Large trees and shrubs such as oak and maple.
* Range: Eastern United States, with some populations in other parts
of the country.
* Behavior: Caterpillars build huge, silken nests in tree branches and
strip trees of vegetation as they develop.
* Introduced from Europe.
* Gypsy moth caterpillars are incredibly destructive as they strip trees
of vegetation. We owe all of our gypsy moth problems to one man, and
his confusion of two words. Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, born in 1827
in the French department of Aisne, immigrated to the United States
in 1856 with a desire to start a silk-making business. The gypsy moth,
then classified as Bombyx dispar, was taxonomically in the same
genus as the silkworm, Bombyx mori. This classification was
later proved wrong, since gypsy moths and silkworms are not related.
However, Trouvelot imported thousands of gypsy moths to his Medford,
MA home, and as his silk ambitions died, the invasive caterpillars
took over the neighborhood and spread throughout New England and nearby
states. By the time the Gypsy Moth Commission formed in 1868 to address
the devastating effects of the insect, Trouvelot had left the country.
His legacy still plagues us today.
* Did you ever wonder about those black rings around the oaks
on Wellesley's campus? They were a good-intentioned but ineffective
idea of the Gypsy Moth Commission. The concept was that sticky,
tar-like rings of paint would trap caterpillars as they made
their way down the tree trunks, but the fact that the larvae
don't crawl down tree trunks made the plan flop.