Spongy Moth

Lepidoptera: Erebidae
(Lymantria dispar)


Male spongy moths are brown. They have small bodies and are strong fliers. Female gypsy moths are white with black markings on the wings. They are much larger than males, but they do not fly. Caterpillars have dark bodies with five pairs of blue dots and six pairs of red dots and hairs that protrude from the body. Young caterpillars feed during the day whereas older caterpillars feed at night. Older caterpillars are approximately 1.5 to 2.0 inches long.

Life Cycle

Spongy moths develop through four life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (moth). The adults live for about two weeks, for the sole purpose of reproducing. Gypsy moth females lay between 500 to 1,000 eggs in crevices in trees. The eggs overwinter and the caterpillar emerges in mid-spring. The caterpillar stage is the most destructive phase in the spongy moth’s lifetime because they feed on the leaves of trees and cause defoliation. The caterpillar stage typically lasts about seven weeks. When the caterpillar has fully grown, it wanders around looking for a protected area to pupate. It remains in the pupae stage for one to two weeks, afterwards, the adult moth emerges. The spongy moth has one generation per year.


Spongy moth is one of the most destructive forest pests that causes extreme defoliation to trees. The caterpillars consume all or almost all leaves of trees which causes the tree to lose its capability to photosynthesize. After two or more years of feeding, the spongy moth can kill a tree. Moreover, the hairs of spongy moth caterpillars carry histamines that exposure to it can cause irritation and red rash on the skin.

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Advice for Gypsy Moth Control

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