Destroyer, separated

If you look closely, you can see the eggs underneath the foamy, spongy covering Spongy Moths/Lymantria dispar coat their egg-masses with. These used to be known as Gypsy Moths, but the common name was changed a couple years ago for obvious reasons. They were introduced to the U.S. in 1869 by some dude who thought they’ve might produce silk. Oops! Generalists, they eat at least 500 different plant species and can be a problem in years of great reproductive success. (All sorts of chemical and biological control methods have been used against them over the yearsincluding a tachinid fly that unfortunately also attacks indigenous species.)

This is a classic invasive species. I’ve seen a few egg masses locally over the years, and one caterpillar: two years ago in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a single early instar in early May.

The images above are all from a cluster of egg masses on a mature European Beech in Green-Wood, discovered April 11th.

April 24: quarter-inch long caterpillars are out of one of the egg masses, making this the second time I’ve seen the larval stage.

These youngsters will most likely balloon away on threads of silk. As early instars, they favor understory plants, moving to oaks, hickory, and beech as they age. They are distinctively hairyand, as is so often the case with showy caterpillars, these are a warning. The hairs can cause allergic reactions in many people.

Today’s title is a translation of the binomial Lymantria dispar. The “separate” bit refers to the sexual dimorphism between male and female adults; they look quite different.

The next day…

A reminder: I’ll be leading a Bugging Out walk in Green-Wood this Sunday.

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