Stopping gypsy moths before they start

April 3, 2008 4:33:13 PM PDT
They're those creepy crawly gypsy moths that defoliate trees. A month from now they could be in your backyard munching away at that oak tree you love. That is unless you do something to stop these hungry pests.

Horticulturalist Al Clericuzio of the Rutgers Extention Service is warning homeowners the time to begin this year's battle against gypsy moths is NOW.

The pesky crawlers, which have devoured hundreds of thousands of acres of trees in South Jersey, are right now in their egg stage.

Clericuzio says if you go in your backyard, just look for the light tan bumps on trunks and tree limbs, and then get a sharp object like a knife or a scraper.

"You want to take a nice tool, dig in literally, keep scraping and make sure you leave no eggs behind," said Clericuzio. "At least you can eliminate the egg masses within your own reach. That's a big step." There can be as many as 1500 eggs, each of which will hatch later this month if not destroyed.

"They're just crawling on the grass and they crawl on the back of the tree. It's just disgusting," said Maryellen Fransckiewich.

Now you can't just scrape the egg masses off and let them fall to the ground. They'll still hatch. You've got to make sure you get rid of them.

"If they hatch, they're going to climb the trees and they're going to start to eat and that's what we're trying to prevent," said Rich Mohr of Rutgers Extention Service.

Once you collect all of your egg masses, put them in a container or bucket. Then either crush them or soak them in horticultural oil. You can also douse them in alcohol or safely burn them.

"You've got to destroy the eggs. That's a must," said Clericuzio.

He says you won't eliminate gypsy moths, but you may put a dent in the population on your property without using pesticides.

"If I can do it myself, I can save myself some money," said Pat Vespucci of Bayville.

But you've got to get to work quickly before those egg masses hatch.