Gypsy Moths
Order Lepidoptera

* 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".

Natural History:
* 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.


Created by: Niki Zhou and Carla Holleran
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: June 25, 2004
Last Modified: August 7, 2004
Expries: June 1, 2005