Lymantria dispar

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adult male gypsy moth Lymantria dispar
Author: Jeff deLonge
Source:Wikimedia Commons

Lymantria dispar (Linnaeus, 1758) (gypsy moth)

The moth is a serious pest of various tree species (e.g. oak, aspen, hornbeam, beech, chestnut) and is native in temperate regions of Europe and Asia. It has become a serious pest in north-eastern North America since its introduction there in 1869 and is still spreading westwards, due to ist slow dispersal ability. Some introductions into western North America have been eradicated. It also became established in New Zealand in the 1990s, where it was subsequently erradicated. Outbreaks in Europe have been uncommon but occurred on a large scale in the 1990s.

Lymantria dispar larva (the larvae usually have 5 pairs of blue spots on the back, followed by 6 pairs of brick-red spots, see the images below for different colour forms)
Source:Wikimedia Commons

The insect has one generation per year. The eggs are laid in the summer and the larvae overwinter inside the egg-masses. They emerge in the spring and often defoliate the trees, growing up to a length of 6 cm. After 2-3 months, the larvae pupate and adults emerge 2 weeks later. The female is larger than the male and moves very little from its pupation site. Only the males are able to fly (wingspan about 4 cm). The young larvae can disperse with the wind through their long hairs and silken threads. In this way, populations might move several kilometers per year. Control methods include protecting trees from larvae climbing up the trunks (e.g. with sticky bands) and the aerial application of Bacillus thuringiensis.

Three subspecies have been described (see illustrations below):
Lymantria dispar dispar - European gypsy moth
Lymantria dispar asiatica - Asian gypsy moth
Lymantria dispar japonica - Japanese gypsy moth

The Asian subspecies are of quarantine concern in North America. They have been already reported there several times but have not yet established. The subspecies and the populations from different geographic origins vary in their ability to use different host plants (Keena & Richards, 2020).

Vernacular names
• Deutsch: Schwammspinner
• English: gypsy moth
• Español: lagarta
• Français: spongieuse


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