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Identification & Biology
Trees Gypsy Moths Like
How Gypsy Moths Harm Trees
Where Gypsy Moths Are
Gypsy Moth Management
History of Gypsy Moths
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Asian vs. European Gypsy Moth
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History of Gypsy Moth in North America

1881 - Gypsy Moth Population Grows


By 1881, residents of Medford were well aware of gypsy moths and considered them an annoying curiosity. However, in 1889, the gypsy moth population exploded. There were so many caterpillars that virtually all vulnerable trees in Medford were completely stripped of their leaves. Yards and sidewalks were covered with caterpillars and frass (insect excrement), and caterpillars coated tree trunks, fences, and houses. Homeowners scrambled to find ways to control the outbreak, even burning the caterpillars off their trees with kerosene (not recommended for obvious reasons!).


Citizens' outcry was so great that the Massachusetts Legislature appropriated $50,000 (an enormous sum at the time) to combat the pest. After consulting several prominent entomologists, a plan of attack was devised and implemented over the following 10 years. The goal was complete eradication of all gypsy moths in the United States. Egg masses were hunted and removed on a massive scale and highly toxic arsenic-based insecticides were sprayed on foliage, often to the dismay of property owners who rightly believed this cure was more dangerous than the problem.
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