We're in the thick of a busy and very warm start to July. The forests at this time of year are usually a welcome
shady respite for many animals and people too as the temperatures rise. This year they are a little but less shady though due to unrelenting gypsy moth infestations near our place.
Gypsy moths start as little moth caterpillars that grow to about 3 inches or so, pupate and emerge as a fairly pretty moth. We had hundreds in our woods last year and unfortunately, did not realize what they were. We never saw the tell-tale egg cases last fall or winter or even this spring. But sure enough, June has been full of them dangling from their threads on trees and the sound of them chewing away at the oak tree canopy in the woods. It makes for an eerie sound when it's a still day.
The caterpillars themselves are furry and only a couple of species of birds will eat them. Luckily for us, one of those species are Blue Jays which we have a lot of so while we lost a lot of canopy cover in our oak and pine forest, we still have some. We've seen entire tracts of forest decimated so we consider ourselves lucky.
Gypsy moths are not a native species so when they run unchecked by a predator/prey balance, they can destroy huge areas of trees.
The good news is, it's a temporary destruction. The cycle for these moths is about every 10 years. Many communities spray pesticides in order to control them but there are always some areas heavily affected. Trees can recover from the damage by re-leafing or re-flushing. Our affected oaks are already on their way. The other good news that we don't really consider is that the moths open up dense canopies and new plants and young trees have access to sunshine. So while we absolutely detest the infestation this spring, we also know there are some benefits. And we have some very well-fed blue jays!