Imperial Moths and Caterpillars

Recently I told you about our experience with gypsy moths. After that batch of destructive caterpillars made their presence known on our cottage lot, we discovered another caterpillar, this one quite striking.

It was huge, over three inches in length and one half an inch in diameter. It was bright green in colour, with white spots and bristles. Google claims this caterpillar belongs to the Imperial Moth, and Wikipedia claims it is not found much further north than the New England states. That explains why we have never seen one before. I guess this guy wandered a little too far north.

I have been teaching my grandchildren the wonders of nature. I have no doubt my three year old grandson would love this colourful caterpillar; my granddaughters not so much. It has been much more difficult to convince them that (some) bugs are beautiful and beneficial.

We will keep our eyes out for the Imperial Moth this caterpillar will morph into next spring. It should be easy to spot as they can reach five and a half inches in size!

Gypsy Moths Defoliating Eastern Ontario Forests

Gypsy moths, at least the caterpillars that morph into the moths, have defoliated many deciduous trees in Eastern Ontario. The trees at our cottage on Palmerston Lake in Ompah, Ontario have not been spared.

Gypsy Moths Defoliating Eastern Ontario Forests

First we noticed lots (more than usual) of these brown moths flying around our property…

Gypsy Moths Defoliating Eastern Ontario Forests

Curious, I googled them to see if they could be responsible for the defoliation of our trees.

Sure enough, the brown moths pictured above are the male gypsy moths.

The males fly around looking for the white, non-flying female versions to inpregnate. The females crawl on the ground, attracting the males with a sex hormone, after which the females crawl onto a tree trunk or any other vertical surface (including our garage wall) to lay their eggs.

The eggs are enclosed in a oval-shaped, soft sac. Once the eggs hatch, the caterpillars crawl further up the trees to continue the destructive cycle.

Gypsy moth egg sac (opened)

Once we discovered what they were, my hubby went around the property scraping (the ones he could reach) the egg sacs off, letting the eggs fall to the ground for the birds and other insects to enjoy.

Perhaps we are tampering with nature, but the damage these caterpillars inflict on.our trees is incredible.

Here’s hoping the trees will recover!