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Identification & Biology
Trees Gypsy Moths Like
How Gypsy Moths Harm Trees
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How Gypsy Moths Move
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Control of Caterpillars
Insecticides for Caterpillars
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Gypsy Moth Management for Homeowners

Control of Caterpillars

Get Rid of Caterpillars
There are several ways to reduce the number of gypsy moth caterpillars in your landscape.  Caterpillars are present from late April to early June in Indiana.  Gypsy moth caterpillars start to hatch out at about the same time that Eastern redbud trees bloom in the spring.

Non-chemical control of caterpillars less than 1-inch long

High pressure hose
Newly-hatched and young caterpillars can be washed off surfaces with a strong stream of water from a hose.  This treatment is best used in addition to other methods. WARNING: Do Not Use power washers on trees or plants as the water pressure could strip bark off and otherwise destroy plant tissue.

“Insecticidal” soaps
Garden centers carry various brands of “insecticidal” soap.  These soaps do not contain pesticides (always check the label).  The action of the soap itself can kill young caterpillars by damaging their outer skin.  Follow package directions for maximum effect.

Hiding bands
Older gypsy moth caterpillars migrate down the trunk of the tree during the heat of the day to find shade and to hide from predators. They move back up the tree in the evening to feed. Burlap bands can be wrapped around tree trunks to collect caterpillars that hide during the day. Caterpillars can be collected in the afternoon and disposed of to reduce the gypsy moth population.

  • Cut a strip of burlap or medium weight dark cloth about 12 to 18 inches wide and long enough to completely encircle the tree.
  • Wrap the burlap around the tree at chest height.
  • Tie string or twine or wrap wire around the burlap 6 inches from the top edge. Then fold the top part of the cloth down over the bottom half, creating a tent-like area for caterpillars to hide in.
  • Check the bands every afternoon. Wear gloves or use tweezers to collect the trapped caterpillars and drop them into a bucket of soapy water (use dishwashing liquid).
  • Let caterpillars soak in the soapy water a day or so before discarding them to make sure they are dead.
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