The gypsy moth, lymantria dispar, is a highly destructive forest pest and one of the council’s top priority species. The moths eat the leaves and needles of conifers and hardwood trees alike, killing the trees and causing widespread ecological damage. They can spread rapidly because the females fly.
The gypsy moth entered the United States in 1992 in a shipment of grain. A massive effort by federal and state agencies wiped out most of them. Today, Washington sees new introductions every year, with moths mostly brought to new areas by people.
The establishment of gypsy moths likely would lead to quarantines on products from the infested areas, with significant economic impacts.
This summer, the Washington Department of Agriculture caught 18 gypsy moths at seven sites in Western Washington. These sites are being inspected for additional evidence of gypsy moth presence such as egg masses, pupal cases, and cast skins before determining the need for an eradication effort. Thanks to the department’s ongoing surveillance work, no permanent populations of gypsy moth have been found in Washington.