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The Gypsy Moth is one of the most destructive insect pests threatening the forest trees and ornamental plants in Ohio. The caterpillar stage of this insect damages trees and shrubs by feeding on the foliage. Once defoliated, the natural response of the trees and shrubs is to refoliate with a second set of leaves. This process depletes food reserves and weakens the plants. Repeated defoliation will result in death of the trees and shrubs. The Gypsy Moth will feed on over 300 species of plants making it a serious pest problem in many urban landscapes.
The Gypsy Moth caterpillars have preferences for certain trees and shrubs on which to feed. Homeowners culturing trees and shrubs preferred by the caterpillars should anticipate some level of feeding and the associated damage, provided a local infestation is present. Homeowners should take the plant preferences into consideration when planning for plant replacements or future landscape plantings.
Preferred Trees – Highly Susceptible to Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Feeding
|Alder||Eastern Hophornbeam||Paper (White) Birch|
|American Oak (all species)||Gray Birch||Pine (all species)|
|Bigtooth Aspen||Larch (Tamarack)||Serviceberry|
|Box Elder Maple||Lombardy Poplar||Spruce (all species)|
|Chestnut||Mountain Ash||Sumac (all species)|
Some trees and shrubs are not the first choice of feeding by the Gypsy Moth caterpillars. These plants are only at risk from defoliation if the local infestation is very high or the more preferred food sources have been depleted.
Moderately Preferred Trees – Moderately Susceptible to Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Feeding
|American Beech||Eastern Cottonwood||Redbud|
|American Hornbeam||Hickory (all species)||Silver Poplar|
|Black Birch||Norway Maple||Slippery Elm|
|Black Cherry||Ohio Buckeye||Sourwood|
|Black Gum (Tupelo)||Paw Paw||Sugar Maple|
|Black Walnut||Pear||Sweet fern|
|Butternut||Pin, Choke Cherries||Yellow Buckeye|
|Cucumber tree||Red Maple|
A variety of tree and shrubs are not likely to be attacked by the feeding caterpillars. Essentially all other food sources in the area must be depleted before caterpillars are found on these plants. Feeding injury on the following trees should not be anticipated and would be good selections for planting establishment in areas with the potential for heavy local infestations of the Gypsy Moth.
Least Preferred Trees – Low Susceptibility to Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Feeding
|Ash (all species)||Honey Locust||Rubus (all species)|
|Azalea (all species)||Grape||Sarsaparilla|
|Balsam Fir||Kentucky Coffee tree||Spicebush|
|Black Locust||Horse Chestnut||Striped Maple|
|Eastern Redcedar||Mulberry||Viburnum (all species)|
|Elderberry||Mountain Laurel||Yellow-poplar (Tulip tree)|
|Fraser Fir||Northern Catalpa|
In addition to plant selection, homeowners can take a number of steps to further reduce the likelihood that the plantings in their landscape will be damaged from Gypsy Moth caterpillar feeding. A few of these practices include:
- Keeping the landscape trees and shrubs in a healthy condition
- Planting a wide diversity of tree and shrub species, particularly favoring the species least preferred by the Gypsy Moth caterpillars.
- Physically removing the caterpillars under burlap bands, tangle foot, etc.
- Destroying egg masses found on trees, outbuildings, woodpiles, etc.
- Implementing the use of control products (i.e. pesticides) when necessary.