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Gypsy Moth Larva

caterpillar

This stage is also known as caterpillar, the worm-like form of an insect. The larva is covered in long, stiff hairs. When it is very young, it's black. As the larva grows, pairs of colored warts appear running down the center of its back. The warts are red on the rear half and blue near the head.

Before the larvae settle down to feed, they will spread out through the forest by "ballooning." This means that the larva climbs to the top of the tree, spins a thread and dangles from it. When a breeze catches the larva, away it goes, usually landing within 150 yards of where it started. Although, on occasion, the larvae are blown long distances. This is one way the gypsy moth travels to new areas.

In order to grow, the larva must shed its skin. Gypsy moth caterpillars will shed their skin 4-5 times, about once a week. It is the larval stage of the moth that causes all the damage to trees as the caterpillars feed on leaves. By July, the larvae have reached maturity.

defoliate

When the gypsy moth population explodes, the feeding larvae can strip trees of leaves. This is called defoliation. Defoliation is very stressful for trees and can leave them so weak that they can be killed by other pests which would not normally bother them. The hungry larvae feed on many types of trees, but they do have their favorites. These are the ones defoliated most frequently.

Yummy and Delicious!
Favorite Food They Can't Get Enough Of

Yuck!
What They Won't Eat
(even if they're starving!)

alder
apple
aspen
birch
basswood
hawthorn
white birch
tamarack
oak
witch hazel
green, white and black ash
red cedar
scotch pine
dogwood

Back to The Changing Faces of the Gypsy Moth



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