How it got here
Gypsy moth is not native to the United States. The insect is originally from Europe and Asia and was first introduced in 1869 by a French scientist living in Massachusetts, who was attempting to breed the insect for silk production. Ironically the gypsy moth was never well suited to produce silk. The insect escaped and has slowly advanced westward ever since.
When it was first realized how big a problem gypsy moth could be, attempts to eradicate the insect were organized by the public in large scale fashion. Unfortunately control measures were physically demanding, dangerous, and the insecticides of the day were as likely to poison the workers as they were the gypsy moth. Not surprisingly, the gypsy moth became well established in a short period of time.
Human assisted spread is the primary way that gypsy moth is moved to new areas. Usually this is done by moving unsuspecting articles that are infested with gypsy moth egg masses, or other life stages of the pest.
The good news is the female gypsy moth can not fly, and natural spread is very limited. Gypsy moth has been a well studied insect since its first introduction to the United States. We know a considerable amount of information on this pest including the pheromones it uses to attract a mate, as well as natural predators and diseases.
Scientist have used this information in forming extremely safe and effective management techniques, as well as excellent pheromone based detection traps that trap the male gypsy moth.
The male gypsy moth will follow the pheromone plume from the trap as it looks for a mate by using their feather-like antennae. The moths get stuck in glue once inside the trap.
Iowa began yearly detection trap surveying for gypsy moth in 1970. This is done to detect the earliest possible introductions of gypsy moth in the state, thereby making eradication a viable option for small isolated gypsy moth populations. To see what is currently being done in Iowa, please visit our Gypsy Moth Management page.
The nation wide emphasis to manage gypsy moth has changed over the years from complete eradication, to slowing the spread of, and then ultimately supression of the pest. This includes minimizing the distribution of the pest by unsuspecting people, and eradication efforts in isolated areas where gypsy moth is first detected, and then slowing the natural spread of the pest as the main gypsy moth line of advance becomes closer.
As an area becomes more and more infested with gypsy moth, the pest populations are managed to reduce the severity of outbreaks. This is the concept behind the supression program.
Northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota are now considered to be in the transition zone before the advancing front. The gypsy moth infested zone is thought to be about 25 miles east of the Mississippi river.
The National Slow The Spread Program oversees all gypsy moth management in the transition zones throughout the United States. Iowa has just recently enrolled in the program, and treatments for gypsy moth have begun for northeast Iowa.
To see where gypsy moth is on the map and the latest summary of quarantined areas, and to also learn about gypsy moth regulations concerning Iowa, please visit our Where is Gypsy Moth page.