Characterizing dispersal of larval gypsy moth to improve quarantine regulations
Brian Aukema, Entomology
The European gypsy moth is an invasive insect that feeds on over 300 species of trees and shrubs. National quarantine guidelines have required for years that wood products (like timber and cut logs) from areas quarantined for gypsy moth be staged at least 100 feet away from forest vegetation. Researchers co-funded by MITPPC and the Gypsy Moth Program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) sought to verify the requirement with field and lab data for the first time.
The team found that while buffer zones of 100-125 ft in most cases are effective, managers and policy makers should decide acceptable risk in context of factors like:
Amount and type of vegetation around the wood staging area – Caterpillars will move faster and farther when food is scarce or tree type is not preferred.
Log deck size – Simulations predicted only 4% caterpillars reaching a log deck with a radius of 25 ft in a buffer zone of 100 ft. With a longer log deck radius and shorter buffer – 75 ft for both – roughly 13% caterpillars were predicted to reach the deck.
Gypsy moth outbreak levels – During times of outbreak, more food competition may mean faster-moving caterpillars and high numbers statistically increase risk.
Hot summer temperatures – Covering buffer zone with dark, heat-absorbing substrates like wood mulch during the hottest parts of the year may discourage caterpillar movement towards log decks.
This work was shared with federal regulators, who are now revising the national gypsy moth management handbook at a time when the insect continues to invade Minnesota.
USDA, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
Brian Aukema, principal investigator
News & Publications
- "Range expansion of Lymantria dispar dispar (L.) (Lepidoptera: Erebidae) along its north‐western margin in North America despite low predicted climatic suitability" (Journal of Biogeography, 2018)
- “Foliage Type and Deprivation Alters the Movement Behavior of Late Instar European Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar (Lepidoptera: Erebidae)”(Journal of Insect Behavior, 2019)
- MITPPC Final Project Report (.pdf)