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Invasive Species: Spongy Moth

Spongy Moth*                                                                    

(Lymantria dispar)

*Established in Michigan*

Identification:

  • Spongy moth caterpillars emerge from tan, fuzzy egg masses in April and feed on leaves through late June.
  • Caterpillars are hairy, with a yellow and black head and 5 pairs of blue spots, followed by 6 pairs of red spots.
  • Mature caterpillars are 1.5 to 2 inches in length.
  • Leaf debris and small, round frass found under trees are indications of gypsy moth infestation.
  • Male moths' wings have a wavy pattern of brown to dark-brown and span 1.5 inches.
  • Female moths are larger than males and do not fly. Wings are white to cream with wavy black markings.

 

Male and female gypsy moths

Spongy moth male (dark) and female (white). Photo courtesy of John H. Ghent, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.

Gypsy moth caterpillar on leaf

Spongy moth caterpillar. Photo courtesy of Haruta Ovidiu, University of Oradea, Bugwood.org.

REPORT THIS SPECIES

Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool

- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone - MISIN.MSU.edu/tools/apps/#home

ABOUT THIS SPECIES

Habitat: 

Most often feeds on the leaves of oak and aspen but can also be found on hundreds of other plant species.

Native Range:

Europe and Asia

U.S. Distribution:

Northeastern U.S. west to Minnesota

Local Concern:

Spongy moth caterpillars defoliate trees, leaving trees vulnerable to diseases and other pests, which may lead to tree mortality. During large outbreaks, debris and frass from feeding caterpillars can be disruptive to outdoor activities.

Pathways of Spread:

Though female moths do not fly, small caterpillars can be blown by the wind to other trees. Gypsy moth egg masses and pupae can be unknowingly transported on firewood, vehicles and recreational gear.  

MORE INFORMATION: 

Lymantria dispar life cycle - MSU

Dealing with Lymantria dispar Around Your Home or Property - MSU

A Virus and a Fungal Disease Cause Lymantria dispar Outbreaks to Collapse - MSU

Comparison of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Forest Tent Caterpillar, and Gypsy Moth (E2299) - MSU Extension bulletin 

Btk: One Management Option for Lymantria dispar - MSU Extension bulletin

2020 Michigan Forest Health Highlights - DNR

Expert answers to questions from the April 2022 NotMISpecies webinar on spongy moth

 *A new common name for Lymantria dispar, spongy moth, replaced the prior name of this insect, gypsy moth, in 2022. We’ll be updating our resources in the coming months to reflect the change.