After 'Murder Hornets,' Washington State Is Now Facing The Threat Of Gypsy Moths

After 'Murder Hornets,' Washington State Is Now Facing The Threat Of Gypsy Moths

The state is now concerned about a possible infestation of Asian gypsy moths and Asian-European hybrid gypsy moths.

Washington State just can't seem to catch a break this year. Just days after "murder hornets" joined the list of things the state needs to tackle amid a pandemic, residents are being warned of yet another threat: a non-native gypsy moth. The lethal cousin of the regular moths you usually see around your porch during the evenings, these bugs are such a serious threat that Governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation this week warning of the potentially devastating impact of its infestation. He warned that the pests can cause major damage to the country’s landscape and natural resources. 



"This imminent danger of infestation seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries of the state of Washington and seriously threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents," the proclamation said, reports CNN. The proclamation revealed that the threat is posed by both Asian gypsy moths and Asian-European hybrid gypsy moths which are non-native to America. According to the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, "large (Asian gypsy moth) infestations can completely defoliate trees. This defoliation can severely weaken trees and shrubs, making them more susceptible to disease. Repeated defoliation can lead to the death of large sections of forests, orchards, and landscaping."



The source of this threat is believed to be ships, cargo containers, and some types of cargo coming to the United States from Asian countries where AGMs are known to exist. According to The Independent, officials plan to begin aerial spraying of a bacteria-based insecticide to prevent a full-blown infestation of these moths. The pests are said to have been recently detected in Washington State, Oregon, Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, where surveys will help determine whether infestations are present and what follow-up actions may be needed to address them.



According to the agency, the female moths can lay hundreds of eggs at a time which become caterpillars that munch through more than 500 different tree and shrub species. Moreover, since the moths can fly long distances, the infestation could potentially spread across the country in a short time. Egg masses on tree trunks, limbs, leaves, stones, walls, logs, lawn furniture, and other outdoor objects could be a sign of the gypsy moths. These egg masses will be covered with buff or yellowish fuzz and average 1½ inches by ¾ inches wide but can be as small as a dime.



Caterpillars feeding on tree and shrub leaves could also be a sign of the moth's presence in the area. "Newly hatched caterpillars are approximately 1/8 inch in length and tan in color. Mature caterpillars may range from 2 to 3½ inches in length and have two rows of blue and red spots on their backs. The mature caterpillar is most often a mottled dark gray color, but can vary from yellow to black," states the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.



"Adult moths are attracted to outdoor lighting and most active at dusk. Adult male moths have grayish-brown wings and a wingspan of 1½ inches. Adult female moths are white and larger, with wingspans of up to 3½ inches," the website adds. Also, keep an eye out for defoliated trees as they could be a potential symptom of the moths' presence.


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