Late fall in Massachusetts brings images of turkey, knit hats, frosty windshields… and Winter Moths!
Unfortunately, since its first positive identification in 2003, this pest has become a seasonal acquaintance to Massachusetts residences. The moths are emerging now from the ground to mate and lay eggs before inevitable death by the cold temperatures that follow. They vary in coloration from pale yellow to beige to gray with a distinct brown band across their backs. The females are flightless, but the males will be observed flying around porch lights, headlights, and the outside of any warmly lit window.
Though harmless now, Winter Moths are a nuisance come spring.
At this life stage the Winter Moth is harmless to you and your plants, but come springtime their larvae will wreak havoc upon the foliage of trees and shrubs everywhere. The young green and white caterpillars are voracious eaters of most deciduous shade and ornamental trees, even feeding on shrubs under heavy infestations.
Partial or total defoliation of trees can seriously impact tree health for years to come, stealing reserve energy from the roots, depleting the plants’ ability to carry out basic functions. Trees in Massachusetts have already suffered serious stress from this season’s drought. Additional stress from a pest like the Winter Moth will certainly mark the end for trees all across the state.
So what can I do to manage winter moth on my property?
Hartney Greymont has been successfully controlling these pests on properties for years using the bio-rational control Spinosad—the derivative of a naturally occurring bacterium. Treatment for Winter Moth caterpillars begin in early spring (March/April). Please use the observation of these moths as Mother Nature’s hint to plan ahead so your trees don’t fall victim to this hungry defoliator.