How to protect against spongy (Gypsy) moth infestation

Experts: Now is not the time to let your guard down

BIG RAPIDS — Now is the time to start thinking about spongy moth infestation and what you can do to limit its damaging effects, experts say.

The Big Rapids Garden Club and Eagles Lodge 2535 recently hosted an educational seminar to provide information on detection and control of the spongy moth (formerly known as Gypsy moth), along with information on weed control by John Ward, CSA certified grower of Ward Farms. 

According to event organizers, around 125 residents attended the seminar.

Mecosta-Osceola County Conservation District forester Rick Lucas presented information on what to look for to determine the severity of an infestation and how to control and limit the damage.

According to Lucas, the area will continue to see spongy moth this spring, although some areas that have had high infestation a few years now may see some relief; it will just move a little bit and become somebody else’s problem as we move forward.  

Now is the time to be looking for eggs masses and destroying them before they have a chance to hatch into the caterpillars that create so much destruction, he said.

“There are things property owners can do to lessen those localized impacts of the gypsy moth, and that will include egg removal. That is going to be, first and foremost, the easiest activity people can do and, in my estimation, will have the most impact when you have so many caterpillars that can hatch from a single egg mass,” Lucas told the Pioneer previously.

Egg masses should be scraped off and soaked in soapy water or burned, according to experts on the subject.

Eggs begin to hatch in the spring, typically between early and mid-May, in much of the Lower Peninsula, information on the Michigan State University Extension website said.

“Anytime up to the actual hatching gives the homeowners the greatest time to have an impact on upcoming populations,” Lucas said. “The challenge is that the egg masses can be on anything and everything, and some of them will certainly be out of reach.”

After hatching, the larvae, or caterpillars, begin feeding on leaves of trees, and will feed on tree foliage for six to eight weeks. As they grow, they consume more leaf tissue.

During this period, homeowners can continue to take steps to help minimize the damage done to their trees, Lucas said.

One the best things a homeowner can do for the trees is to make sure they are healthy. That includes keeping them watered thoroughly — soaking in 1 to 2 inches of water once a week.

Sticky bands can also be placed around tree trunks to prevent caterpillars from crawling up to the leafy parts. Three or four bands of inside-out duct tape can help capture the caterpillars, which can then be scraped off into a bucket of soapy water to kill them.

In addition, burlap bands can be placed around the trunks of the trees where the caterpillars will hide during the day and can be knocked off into a bucket of soapy water. 

While these methods may not affect the overall population, it can help protect individual trees.

Anything you can do with collecting the caterpillars, pupas and moths, and destroying them will lesson what will occur the following season, Lucas said.

For those who were not able to attend the presentation, a video is available at and the Big Rapids Garden Club‘s Facebook page.