All About Spongy Moths – Colorado’s Newest Pest

When it comes to keeping your trees safe from disease and insects, most homeowners immediately think about preventing emerald ash borer or mountain pine beetle infestations. While these insects can wreak havoc on your trees and your property, they’re far from the only pests you need to be aware of. One of the rarer but problematic insects that Colorado homeowners need to start looking for is the spongy moth. Here’s what your tree health care team wants you to know about these insects.

What Are Spongy Moths?
Spongy moths, or gypsy moths, are a type of moth that has gradually been making its way into Colorado. These start their lives as caterpillars which feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs. They can eat up to one square foot of leaves in a single day, making them particularly destructive. They’re predominantly nocturnal, but the damage can become clear in as little as one day.

These insects used to be found predominantly on the East Coast, but they’re now starting to spread across the country. 

What Do They Look Like?
Spongy moths start their lives as caterpillars which have a very distinct look. These insects are hairy and either dark brown or black in color. They also have blue dots on the front halves of their bodies and red on the back halves. 

Once they reach the adult moth stage, their coloration varies by sex. Males are typically light brown in color, helping them blend into the bark more easily. Females are usually cream in color but tend to be larger than their male counterparts.

What Do They Feed On?
Spongy moths can eat just about any leafy tree or shrub. But they prefer hardwood varieties like maple, elm, and oak. However, they’ve also shown a preference for apple, willow, and birch trees. They typically only eat the leaves, making it easy to spot their damage. They don’t bore into the tree like other common pests, but that doesn’t mean the damage they cause isn’t harmful to the tree itself. Losing tons of leaves at once can put strain on the tree, and if the infestation occurs more than one year in a row, it’s difficult for the tree to bounce back without help.

How to Control Spongy Moths
The best way to control spongy moths is by making sure your trees are as healthy as they can be. Stay on top of routine watering, fertilize when necessary, and keep overgrowth properly pruned and trimmed each year. 

If you have younger or less established trees and shrubs on your property, take care to inspect them during the spring and summer months. If you notice any caterpillars on the bark or start seeing the canopy losing leaves without reason, contact a tree care specialist as soon as possible.

Leave Treatments to the Pros
If you think you have spongy moths in your trees or on your property, don’t try to get rid of them on your own. Instead, contact Root Tree Service today to schedule a consultation. Our experienced team will help you determine if you have spongy moths or another type of insect causing damage to your trees. Once we know what’s going on, we’ll be able to treat your property to protect your trees from losing their leaves and mitigate any potential damage.

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