The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) was released accidentally in 1869 by a French artist and amateur entomologist who’d hoped to breed a new type of silkworm from his home outside Boston. Two centuries later, the gypsy moth remains one of today’s most damaging defoliating pests. During outbreaks, caterpillars can strip whole trees of their leaves.
Gypsy moth populations in Minnesota are actively managed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. Their joint work is keeping populations low and slowing the spread of the insect across the state. However, accidental movement is still a concern. MITPPC researchers are learning how far gypsy moth caterpillars can travel in different environmental conditions, so regulators can reevaluate rules used to prevent gypsy moth spread in the commercial lumber trade.