Gypsy Moths Stopped by Fungus
Clearly, 1996 was not
the year of the gypsy moth.
The populations of leaf-devouring caterpillars
that have devastated forests in the Northeast and Midwest have
plummeted to extremely low levels in two of their primary states,
New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The reason appears to be a combination
of wet weather and a fungus disease, according to NSF-funded
Jack Schultz, a professor of entomology at Pennsylvania State
The fungus showed up about 20 years ago,
Schultz told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "[It] seems
to be very widespread now, and is killing lots of gypsy moth
Destruction done by gypsy moths hit a
high in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey in 1990. In Pennsylvania,
the caterpillars defoliated more than 4,360,000 acres. In New
Jersey, the damage was estimated at 431,200 acres.
The low point of destruction for both
states came in 1994 when the caterpillars claimed only 18,000
acres per state. While the loss in Pennsylvania went back up
to 132,000 acres in 1995, Schultz does not expect the 1996
numbers to be nearly so drastic. "We're still at the bottom
of the trough," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
he adds, it's unlikely the gypsy moth will remain forever quelled
by a fungus. "We should see another major outbreak in central
Pennsylvania in about 1998-99," Schultz reported. "This year
there are more of them [than at the 1994 low point] but not
so the average person would notice."