Thank You (for nothing!!) Mr. Trouvelot

Our poor trees here in Beautiful West Michigan. So many of them must be terribly embarrassed these days. That’s because this year we literally have acres and acres of naked trees. In the middle of summer no less!! This horrible phenomenon occurs every 10 years or so due to infestations of that nasty import: the European Gypsy Moth.

And yes folks, these little stinkers were actually brought from Europe on purpose; by a guy named Étienne Léopold Trouvelot. I did some digging on the interwebs and learned that he fled France with his family to Medford, Massachusetts during the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1851. Then in the 1860s he thought it would be really cool to raise some gypsy moth caterpillars in the forest behind his house. His goal was to raise a disease resistant caterpillar for the purpose of silk production. So he got some egg masses from Europe and brought them here for hatching. Unfortunately, several of the caterpillars “escaped” to nearby woods and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is by no means the first time people have transplanted invasive species from one part of the world to another; whether intentional or otherwise. One relatively harmless example is the introduction of mulberry trees into the U.S. in 1733, again with the intent of kicking off a silk industry. Mulberry leaves are a favorite food of silkworms you see. Well, the silkworms didn’t do so well, but the mulberry trees are doing just great, thank you.

Anyway, back to these doggoned gypsy moths. I admit that I mistakenly believed they only love oak trees. Well turns out they’ll readily munch on about 300 different species of trees and shrubs. A variety of control methods are being used with some success. One of the most important is not to travel around with firewood or other woody debris that may be infested with egg masses. Big no-no!! There are also sprays that target only the caterpillars; and there are traps that can be made. And yes there actually are a few natural predators like deer mice that actually love to eat the creepy crawlies. I’ll put a couple informative links at the bottom of this so you can educate yourselves if you like.

Don’t despair, this terrible sight of naked (and most likely highly embarrassed) trees will improve after a year or two when the populations collapse due to disease and other factors. Unfortunately, however, it looks like these boogers are here to stay. All we can do is learn to cope the best we can.

So here are a couple of very informative links for you:

And now, as Mr. Cleese used to say, for something completely different: