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Species Lymantria dispar - Spongy Moth - Hodges#8318

Gypsy moth pupa - Lymantria dispar mystery cocoon - Lymantria dispar Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar dispar) - Lymantria dispar Gypsy Moth caterpillar  - Lymantria dispar Gypsy Moth caterpillar - Lymantria dispar gypsy moth caterpillar - Lymantria dispar Early instar caterpillar - Lymantria dispar Unknown Caterpillar - Lymantria dispar
Show images of: caterpillars · adults · both
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)
Superfamily Noctuoidea (Owlet Moths and kin)
Family Erebidae
Subfamily Lymantriinae (Tussock Moths)
Tribe Lymantriini
Genus Lymantria
Species dispar (Spongy Moth - Hodges#8318)
Hodges Number
Other Common Names
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Lymantria dispar (Linnaeus, 1758)
Phylogenetic sequence # 930141
This is the only Nearctic species in the genus, an introduction from the Old World.
Males typically have a wingspan of 38 mm, while for females the wingspan is somewhat larger.
"The larval stage (caterpillar) is hairy, and a mature larva is 50-65 mm long with a yellow and black head. Behind the head on the thorax and abdomen are five pairs of blue spots (tubercles) followed by six pairs of brick red spots."(from Penn State website) Please note: earlier instars (under about 12mm) do not exhibit the characteristic blue and brick red pairs of tubercles, nor the yellow and black head. Look instead for "first thoracic segment with prominent subdorsal warts bearing numerous long setae that makes face look "eared." "(Caterpillars of Eastern Forests)

The female is mostly light-colored and is too heavy to fly. The males are slightly smaller and dark with wavy lines.
Native to Eurasia, introduced to North America at Boston, Massachusetts circa 1869 and has been spreading ever since (US Forest Service). Michigan, Pennsylvania, and all states to the north and east of these. Also much of Wisconsin. Also the northern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Most of West Virginia is included in the insect's range, as well as parts of Virginia and North Carolina. The United States Forest Service estimates the moth's range is spreading south and west at a rate of about 21 kilometers per year. In Canada, Lymantria dispar is present in British Columbia and in much of eastern Canada.
Many hardwood species. A very partial list includes Red Oak, Cherries, Willows, Hickories, and Pines. Over 500 spp. of plants are known hosts.
Life Cycle
In late summer females lay up to 1,000 eggs per egg mass. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the Spring. Larvae feed heavily and do considerable damage to forests. Pupation typically occurs in mid-Summer.

Newborn larvae......early instar......late instar:

Pupa......................male.......................female......................egg-laying female:
Etienne Leopold Trouvelot, an amateur entomologist, brought Lymantria dispar into the United States to see if they could be successfully reared for silk culture. Around 1869 some of Trouvelot's charges escaped from his home near Boston. Realizing the potential magnitude of the problem, he reported the escape but no action was taken until the infestation grew serious several years later. Trouvelot later became interested in astronomy and astronomical illustration, and eventually became a Harvard professor of Astronomy.

A parasitic tachinid, Compsilura concinnata, was introduced in the US as a biocontrol. Unfortunately, it also parasitizes many native moths (Fuester et al., 2001). Several other biological controls have also been introduced with varying degrees of success (Kenis & Vaamonde, 1998).
Blepharipa scutellata, Parasetigena agilis, and Exorista larvarum are flies imported to parasitize the gypsy moth.(1)
Blepharipa scutellata is parasitized by Conostigmus virginicus.(1)
Sturmia inconspicua is a sawfly that was imported around 1906 as gypsy moth control.(1)
Apanteles melanoscelus is a braconid wasp introduced into New England in 1911 and 1912 and was expected to parasitize this moth. It quickly became established. Parasitization can be fairly high in spots.(1)
Ooencyrtus kuwanai in the Encyrtidae family, was introduced in the USA in 1908 and 1909 from Japan as a parasite of gypsy moth eggs. A 40-50% parasitization rate has been documented in MA and CT.(1)
Anastatus disparis, another egg parasitizor in the Eupelmidae family, was introduced into New England in 1907 and quickly established. This species is scarce where Ooencyrtus kuwanai is present.(1)
Print References
Ferguson, D.C., 1978. The Moths of America North of Mexico, Fascicle 22.2. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation, p. 90; pl. 1.9-12. (2)
Powell, J.A. & P.A. Opler, 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, pl. 49, figs. 9, 10; p. 274. (3)
Works Cited
1.Eastern Forest Insects
Whiteford L. Baker. 1972. U.S. Department of Agriculture · Forest Service.
2.The Moths of America North of Mexico. Fascicle 22.2. Noctuoidea, Lymantriidae
D. C. Ferguson. 1978. The Wedge Entomological Research Foundation.
3.Moths of Western North America
Powell and Opler. 2009. UC Press.