The Gypsy Moth

Date Published: 
August, 1906
Original Author: 
William Stone
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention

All have not been so situated as to give the gypsy moth much study and for that reason have not given them much thought, but as it has become so serious a matter it seems to be the duty of everyone to give it a thought. For the benefit of those who know little of the insects' habits I would say that for more than 100 years the gypsy moth has made great ravages in the European and Asiatic countries. In the year 1752 gardens, vineyards and forests were stripped of their foliage in Ger¬many. In 1794 much damage was done in different parts of Germany. In 1817, in France, the damage done was immense. In 1837, 1839 and 1842 they completely devastated a region about Toulouse, France, of about 230 square miles. In 1851-53 the zoological gardens at Berlin were completely ruined. In 1878 they so abounded in Zruier, Russia, that in migrating from one forest to another they marched over and literally covered the walls of houses found in their way. Many more instances are recorded of the damage done by them in foreign countries.

In 1868 a French scientist, residing at Medford, MA, imported egg clusters of the gypsy moth to use in experimenting with silk producing insects. The professor afterwards returned to France and the manner in which the moth escaped from his care could not be learned by correspondence. A well known citizen of Cambridge saw the professor at his residence at Mendon, France, a short time before his death and he informed him that he had the caterpillars netted on a shrub in his yard at Medford and that during a gale the netting was torn and the insects scattered. He at once notified the public through the entomological magazine of that time. No notice was taken of it, or at least nothing was done and the insects, becoming established, multiplied with wonderful rapidity. By 1889 they had become so abundant in Medford and Malden that they completely stripped the trees and were forced to swarm out¬ward in all directions in search of food.

On March 14, 1890, the first act authorizing work against the gypsy moth by the Legislature was approved by Governor Brackett, which carried an appropriation of $25,000. A commission was appointed and it was soon learned that the infested territory was much larger than was at first supposed and on June 3, 1890, an additional appropriation of $25,000 was made. Work by different commissioners was vigorously carried on, and in the year 1899 the gypsy moth was completely under control throughout the district. In the year 1900 a special committee was appointed by the Legislature to investigate the work that had been done, and they reported "that further work was unnecessary, as the gypsy moth need not be considered a serious pest. It appears to us that the fears of the farmers throughout the state have been unnecessarily aroused. We do not share these exaggerated fears and the prophecies of devastation and ruin are unwarranted, which are but the fancies of honest enthusiasts." The report of this committee caused the Legis¬lature to make no further appropriation, and the state work was brought to a close. During the years 1900 and 1901 no great damage was caused by the moth, although it was evident to the trained eye that it was rapidly increasing. The years 1902 and 1903 showed that the moth had established itself in alarming numbers; serious colonies had developed in the woods of Arlington, Medford, Saugus and the Lynn woods. In 1904 the insect appeared in alarming numbers in districts that had previ¬ously been cleaned. It is evident now that the moth pest is in the ascendency and can only be controlled by prompt and thorough work.

It is now plain that the honest enthusiasts knew what they were talk¬ing about and that a few more dollars spent in 1900 and 1901 would have saved the expenditure of many thousands of dollars that must be spent at the present time. No more foliage will be destroyed by them this year, as they are rapidly passing to the pupa state and miller stage of their existence. The millers eat nothing. The female cannot fly, which is very fortunate. She is now depositing her eggs in countless numbers. They can be found in every conceivable place, nicely covered with a yellowish wooly substance, and each patch or cluster contains from 400 to 500 little eggs resembling mustard seed. As soon as the female lays her eggs her mission in life is ended and she dies. The eggs will hatch about the first of next May and then the work of devastation will commence. The tiny worms at first soon develop into worms from two to two and a half inches in length. To identify them look for a row of blue spots on the back, followed by a double row of crimson spots--ten blue spots and twelve crimson. The spots are not noticeable till the worm is two¬-thirds grown. They are ravenous feeders and will continue their work of destruction to the last of July and the first of August. The female caterpillar, pupa and miller are all larger than the male.

No more damage will be done till the eggs hatch next May and we have till then to destroy them, by saturating them with creosote. Do not scrape them off, as they will be lost in the ground and will hatch there. The eggs are not only deposited on the trunks and branches of the trees, but in stone walls; under plank walks and holes in the ground, requiring a sharp and careful eye to find them. The object of putting the burlap around the trees in the spring is to furnish the worm with a hiding place which they seem to like, and there is no use in doing this if they are not collected and destroyed every day. They travel and feed in the night, and in ascending and descending a tree they take refuge under the burlap and stay there, and as they like each others company, many will linger near the burlap, where they can be easily found• and destroyed. From thirty-five to forty bushels have been collected and destroyed in this way in, Pine Grove Cemetery during the present sum¬mer, and with all this labor there are hundreds of clusters of eggs that will receive careful attention and be destroyed.

If one who has not given the matter much thought will ride over the Lynnfield road and through the Lynn Woods, he will have an idea what the result will be if the pest is not conquered. The evergreen trees or conifers, which embrace the pine, spruce, hemlock and others, to be defoliated once is almost certain death. The deciduous trees or those that shed their foliage every year will survive defoliation two or at the most three times. The street trees throughout our City bear evidence of being carefully looked after by Superintendent Doak of the highway department. It is the duty of every citizen to encourage the authorities by words or money, if necessary, to annihilate this pest. Our beautiful trees that give us so much pleasure during the summer months should not be ruined if human labor can prevent it. It is sad to see a grove of trees entirely defoliated, and be obliged to say what a pity. The countless thousands of brown-tail millers that hovered around our arc lights and covered the sides of the buildings in the business section of our city last summer will not' be seen to any great extent this summer, and those who suffered last season with the itch, caused by them, will have nothing to fear this summer, as they have almost entirely disappeared, but the gypsy moth is on the increase.
There is a beautiful woods near us called "Lynn Wood" in which they have been fighting these pests. The authorities have stopped driving through them and closed up the roads, because the caterpillars would get on to the vehicles as they drove through and the branches swept the carriages and would be thus carried to other locations. 'When the caterpillars were traveling through the wood the road was literally covered with them, the commissioner of highways sprayed the roadway and destroyed millions. There was a group of large white pine in Lynn Wood. A man could have saved this group of trees by the use of the burlaps, but now the trees are almost entirely destroyed.

The superintendent of streets sprayed the trees along the streets with a pump run by a gasoline engine and he has kept the street trees very clean.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 20th Annual Convention
Held at Detroit, MI
August 21, 22 and 23, 1906