Spongy Moth

*A new common name for Lymantria dispar, spongy moth, replaced the prior name of this insect, gypsy moth, in 2022. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we transition through the name change process. For more information, visit the Entomological Society of America website.

Gypsy moth caterpillar

(Photo: Spongy moth caterpillar, forestryimages.org) 

Spongy moth* (formerly known as gypsy moth) is​ a non-native pest that is well-established in the e​astern two-thirds of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer P​rotection (DATCP) focus​es its efforts on the western edge of that area in an attempt to slow the spread of this destruct​ive insect.

Spongy moth​ caterpillars feed on the leaves of about 300 species of trees a​nd shr​ubs. At high populations​, they may completely defoliate trees in the spring. Repeated defoliations may weaken trees and leave them susceptible to other insects and diseases. Adult spongy moth do not feed, but the adult females lay thousands of eggs which are easily transported to new areas by humans on firewood, outdoor furniture, camping equipment and vehicles.

Fifty-two​ of Wisconsin's 72 counties are under quarantine for gypsy moth. Pockets of gypsy moth infestation flare up periodically within these counties. These outbreaks may range from a single woodlot to thousands of acres. Local communities or individual property owners may choose to spray to suppress these outbreaks, but DATCP generally does not treat in these area​s. 

DATCP does treat in the counties just west of the quarantined counties and on the western edge of some of the quarantined counties as part of the Slow the Spread Program, a cooperative effort with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and 10 states.

Note: ​If you see webs in a tree, it is not spongy moth. It is either tent caterpillars or webworms. Both are native species that may partially defoliate a tree, but they attack only a few species of trees and have natural predators to control them. There is no state program to monitor or control them.

​Resources

Aerial spraying

Quarantine and regula​tions

Trapping and egg mass surveys​

Fact sheets

Spongy moth on your property

Identifying spongy moth

Information from Partner Agencies

Wisconsin Departm​​ent of Natural Resources

University of Wisconsin-Extension