Gyspy Moths on wide, destructive path in Southwest Virginia

Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 6:23 PM EDT
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Gypsy Moths are destroying trees in Southwest Virginia. You may have noticed bare trees or signs of the moths in your yard.

Researchers have seen the most destruction from Gypsy Moths in Southwest Virginia since 2008.

Throughout the state, they've made their mark on about 50,000 acres.

"Gyspy Moths are always present. You just never see it and then it will pop up like this. When it does it can be a real nuisance," said Andy Roberts, an entomologist at Virginia Tech.

They're pesky little critters. These caterpillars can defoliate a tree.

They cleared the leaves from a section of Gap Mountain in Giles County.

"The defoliation per say doesn't kill it, the stress on the tree makes it susceptible to other organisms and it typically will die from accumulated secondary infections," Roberts said.

They'll prey on about 300 species of trees but favor Oaks, Willows, and Aspens.

Andy Roberts specializes in Gypsy Moths within Virginia Tech's Entomology Department.

He's helping Slow the Spread, a project that reduces the mating habits in moths and prevents their spread to other trees.

"Counties that have had defoliation in the past Bedford, Giles, Craig, Pulaski, had defoliation and defoliation again this year. It's moving a little bit still southwestward," Roberts said.

He said Gypsy Moths are often misidentified as tent caterpillars like these Fall Web Worms.

"That is definitely not Gypsy Moth. No tents, no webs, that's where a lot of confusion comes in," Roberts said.

Instead Gypsy Moths hang tight to the trees, eating leaves, planting

eggs on the bark, and rarely congregating.

Roberts said Gypsy Moths tend to be more present when it's hot and dry. Cool and wet weather kills some of them.

The best way to get rid to them is to call pest control or spray their eggs in early Spring with soybean oil.