GTA municipalities prepare for another round of sponge moths

You may remember sponge moths, an invasive species formerly called the LDD moth, that caused headaches in many GTA municipalities last year.

Experts say these furry insects are making a comeback to southern Ontario, with an equally big appetite for native trees.

“Now he lives in Ontario. This is a resident. Now he is here to live with us forever,” says National Resources Canada researcher Chris McQuarrie.

McQuarrie says caterpillar outbreaks can occur every seven to 10 years, with each outbreak lasting up to three years.

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Outbreak of gypsy moth caterpillars ravaging trees in Ontario could cause record damage

“From time to time we get these giant outbreaks where they destroy the foliage on millions and millions of hectares and people notice them.”

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Sponge butterflies commonly lay their eggs on the bark of various tree species, including oak, maple, and birch, in urban areas and private yards. When their eggs hatch in the spring, the insects climb the trees, feeding on the new foliage.

A number of GTA municipalities were hit hard in 2021, including Olx Praca and Mississauga. Parts of Olx Praca suffered the most damage, including Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke.

Gypsy moth caterpillars eating bare Ontario trees

Gypsy moth caterpillars eat the bare trees of Ontario – June 17, 2021

Dan Giannobile, who lives near the Scarborough cliffs, remembers all too well.

“Litter only spoils the deck. We just can’t use it.”

“This is a real impact. You cannot invite people, you cannot let children play in the yard,” he said.

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Olx Praca urges residents to be careful of sponge moths this spring

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Caterpillar-induced defoliation has increased from 586,385 hectares in 2020 to nearly 1.8 million hectares in 2021, according to the province. This is more than three times the area of ​​Prince Edward Island.

“The strategy for this year is basically to use helicopter aerial spraying where we will be spraying several different pesticides,” said Joel Harrison-Off, forest health inspector for the City of Olx Praca.

“This is the second or third year of high levels of moths, and they have caused a lot of damage to both private trees and trees owned by the city.”


Southern Ontario braces for another sponge moth outbreak

Harrison-Off says the city’s spraying campaign will begin in mid-May, with efforts focused primarily on North York and Scarborough. In municipalities like Mississauga, city officials will start spraying in some areas this week.

Experts say residents can also take matters into their own hands and wrap their trees in burlap.