This morning — shortly after the story below was posted — Ann Rowlands and Bob Stalling replied in the comments section. Bob wrote:
Anne Rowlands is correct, they are fall webworms, not gypsy moths (gypsy moths don’t form webs). And though they are unsightly, they will not defoliate your tree; in fact, they rarely cause damage to trees.
Additionally, they are food for birds. If you don’t like the sight, snip out the nests — it’s nature.
Fall webworms are more prevalent this year due to optimum weather conditions. On the other hand, the weather condition have been very bad for gypsy moths. The wet weather has activated the maimaiga fungus, which kills gypsy moths — and the reason we don’t see many, if any, this year.
Alert — and aggravated — “06880” reader Sandra Urist says it has been at least 39 years since we’ve had gyspy moths in Westport.
She fears we’re at the beginning of a new cycle. She removed 5 branches like this over the last 2 weeks:
According to the US Forest Service, the gypsy moth is one of North America’s most devastating forest pests. The species originally evolved in Europe and Asia thousands of years ago, and was accidentally introduced near Boston around 1868.
In 1890 state and federal governments attempted to eradicate the gypsy moth. They failed, and the range spread.
Gypsy moths feed on on the foliage of hundreds of species of plants in North America. The most common hosts are oaks and aspen.
When densities reach very high levels, trees may become completely defoliated. Several successive years of defoliation may result in tree mortality.
Have you noticed gypsy moths? How do you handle infestations? And, Sandra wonders, how we can manage the gypsy moth problem organically, without using pesticides that kill beneficial pollinators?
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