gypsy moth

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Related to Asian gypsy moth: European gypsy moth

gypsy moth,

common name for a moth, Lymantria dispar, of the tussock moth family, native to Europe and Asia. Its caterpillars, or larvae, defoliate deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. Introduced from Europe into Massachusetts c.1869, the European gypsy moth became a serious pest within 20 years. Asian gypsy moths were introduced to the Northwest by Russian ships in 1991 and to North Carolina by a ship returning from Germany in 1993.

Adult gypsy moths have hairy bodies. Females, with a wingspread of about 2 in. (5 cm), or 3.5 in. (8.9 cm) in the Asian variety, are white with dark lines on the wings; the smaller males are gray. The female covers the egg mass with body hair and scales. The larvae emerge in the spring; their blackish bodies have yellow stripes and rows of blue or red tubercles bearing tufts of hair. When full grown they are about 2 in. long. Pupation (see insectinsect,
invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.
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) lasts about two weeks, and the adults emerge from the cocoon in midsummer.

European gypsy moth females do not fly; dispersal occurs chiefly in the egg and larval stages as the caterpillars are blown by the wind or transported on vehicles. Females of the Asian variety and hybrids do fly. In North America the European gypsy moth has spread through the NE United States and adjacent parts of Canada, west to Wisconsin and south to North Carolina. The Asian variety has begun to damage areas of the Pacific Northwest. Gypsy moths defoliate millions of acres of trees in the United States yearly; repeated infestations weaken and kill the trees. A variety of measures have been used to check their spread, including the implementation of stringent quarantine measures and aerial application of pesticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis and diflubenzuron (Dimilin).

The gypsy moth is classified in the phylum ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
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, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera, family Liparidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gypsy Moth


(Ocneria [Porthetria or Lymantria] dispar), a moth of the family Lymantriidae; a dangerous pest of many trees. The male and female differ sharply in size and color, as well as in the structure of the antennae. The females have a wingspread of up to 9 cm; the wings are gray-white or yellow-white; males have a wingspread of up to 5 cm; the anterior wings are brownish gray, and the posterior wings brown.

The gypsy moth is distributed throughout most of Europe, in northern Africa, in the temperate latitudes of Asia, and in North America. In the USSR it is found in the European part and in the southern regions of the Asian part. The gypsy moth has one generation per year. It was imported into North America in the second half of the 19th century and soon began massive reproduction.

Gypsy moths usually begin to fly in July or August (in southern regions, in June). They do not feed but immediately mate and lay eggs (most often on the root parts of tree trunks; less frequently, on branches or on the bare roots of trees; sometimes on rocks). After 20 to 25 days, the formation of caterpillars within the eggs is almost complete; the caterpillars remain in the eggs for the winter, emerging in the spring of the following year.

The caterpillars of gypsy moths damage more than 300 plant species, particularly oaks, hornbeams, fruit trees, poplars, birch, linden, and willow. In periods of massive reproduction the caterpillars almost completely defoliate trees and are often forced to transfer to herbaceous plants, damaging cereal grains and even vegetable crops. Tree growth is retarded and fruit production is decreased. When there is repeated damage, apical dryness and complete desiccation are observed.

Control measures include scraping and burning egg deposits, treating egg deposits with mineral oils, applying rings of caterpillar glue to the trunks of trees, and treating the plants with insecticides.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

gypsy moth

[′jip·sē ¦mȯth]
(invertebrate zoology)
Porthetria dispar. A large lepidopteran insect of the family Lymantriidae that was accidentally imported into New England from Europe in the late 19th century; larvae are economically important as pests of deciduous trees.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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