How To Get Rid of Gypsy Moths

Most moths are harmless and are mostly an annoyance, but this isn’t true for gypsy moths.

Gypsy moths are an invasive species that can severely damage plants and spread rapidly if not controlled.

These moths are hard to control if you’re unsure where to look or what to look for.

Don’t worry; I’m here to help.

In this post, I will help you identify gypsy moths and give you thirteen different ways to get rid of them.

What do gypsy moths look like?

adult gypsy moth on tree with egg mass

Before we begin to tackle how to get rid of Gypsy moths, let’s first identify them.

Male Gypsy moths are brown with dark markings on their wings.

Female Gypsy moths have white wings with brown markings. Their wings span up to 2 1/2 inches, but they can only fly short distances.

Gypsy moth eggs look like hairy patches with light brown color. You’ll typically find these patches on tree trunks and branches.

multiple gypsy moth larva on tree

In caterpillar form, Gypsy moths can grow to approximately 2.2 inches. They have lines of raised blue and red spots along their back. 

They also have thin orange spines coming from their back and have 16 legs. 

How To Get Rid Of Gypsy Moths

1. Use Diatomaceous Earth

DE is a natural insecticide widely used against various pests, including moths, beetles, ants, and roaches.

To use DE against moths, I recommend combining the powder with water. Keep in mind that DE is only effective when dry. So, you will have to wait until it dries and settles before it works.

Water mixed with DE is called a DE slurry. This mixture is ideal outdoors because it allows for easy application on larger areas. DE slurry also allows you to apply the insecticide on difficult surfaces.

You can spray the solution on soil and grass. You also spray it around your flowers and plants to prevent the larva from crawling up to them.

2. Apply Nematodes

Beneficial nematodes are a method of biological control that attacks moth’s larvae and eggs.

Mix an entire pack of nematodes with one gallon of water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Next, spray it directly onto the soil. If possible, find the host tree or damaged plant and target that area.

It’s important to note that some nematodes can cause severe damage to plant and tree roots. The nematodes purchased online are referred to as “beneficial nematodes.” These nematodes feed primarily on small insects and are harmless to plants, trees, humans, and animals.

Spray nematodes daily for at least two weeks.

For the most effective application, use nematodes between April or early May. Doing so will ensure that you minimize, if not eliminate, all the eggs before they hatch. While this may not necessarily remove your current moth problem, it will reduce the moth population for the next cycle.

The purpose of adult moths is to reproduce. They live long enough to mate and lay eggs. By eliminating eggs and larvae, you can significantly reduce the chances of moth infestation once the next season rolls around.

3. Release Parasitic Wasps

Parasitic wasps are an effective biological control for moths.

In particular, the Spring Tiphia wasp is a voracious eater of moth larvae. By introducing parasitic wasps on the host tree, you can significantly reduce the wasp population.

There are many parasitic wasps, and depending on the species, they feed on different hosts. This is why you must purchase the correct species of parasitic wasps.

To eliminate gypsy moths, you want to purchase Trichogramma wasps. These wasps will feed on over 200 different species of moths.

One disadvantage of parasitic wasps is that they can be difficult to get a hold of. One of the best sources of biological pest control insects is Natures Good Guys.

4. Apply Bacillus Thuringiensis (BTI)

BTI is the most commonly used agricultural microbial pesticide in the world. It is a naturally occurring bacterium found in soils. BTI pathogen produces toxins that kill larvae within 4-24 hours after ingestion.

BTI is widely used around the world because it is easy and safe to use.

Many BTI products are designed specifically for homeowners. BTI presents no toxicity to people, animals, bees, and other beneficial insects. And when used properly, it is safe for crops and water supplies.

Keep in mind; however, BTI needs to be ingested for it to work. As such, BTI does not work on adult moths or pupae.

To kill gypsy moth larvae, spray BTI on the host tree. To be sure, also spray BTI on your garden soil, grass, and trees. Look for areas where there are damaged leaves, and spray there as well.

5. Slippery Tape Protection

Slippery tapes create a barrier between the tree leaves and Gypsy moth caterpillars. This barrier is designed to be too slippery for caterpillars to climb, thereby creating a protective barrier.

This method is pretty easy to use. Choose a smooth area on the tree to wrap the tape around. There is no maintenance involved for this method other than cleaning the tapes’ surface when it gets dusty.

6. Use a Sticky Substance

Another thing you can do is to use sided tapes explicitly made for Gypsy moths. These tapes are designed to be safe for trees and animals.

For this, you would wrap the tree trunk with tape. Choose the smoothest area of the trunk with reach and wrap the paper tightly around it. The idea is to trap any gypsy moth caterpillars that crawl up the tree to get to the leaves.

As an alternative, you can also use products that are specifically made for trees. One of the most popular is tanglefoot. This allows you to place sticky gel on the surface of your tree so that moth larva can’t pass the barrier.

The tape should stay effective for several months. But, I recommend checking the tape once or every couple of weeks.

7. Use Bug Zappers

Bug zappers kill moths by attracting them with light and electrocuting any moth that enters the trap.

When using bug zappers, turn off as many lights as possible on your property. That includes light both inside and outside your home. Minimizing visible light increases the chance that moths will be drawn to your trap.

If the lights are not effective at attracting moths, you can use a gypsy moth lure. You can place it behind your bug zapper to encourage the gypsy moths to fly directly into the zapper.

While Bug zappers are effective at killing moths, it does have a few disadvantages.

First is that it will attract more moths to your home. Second, Bug Zappers are not only deadly to moths but can also kill beneficial insects. Finally, Bug Zappers are messy, producing bug mist that can travel up to 6 feet from vaporized moths.

If you are using a hanging bug zapper, place them away from the main entry points in your home. Hang the zapper in areas that get the least traffic around your home. Also, avoid staying near the zapper so as not to inhale the vaporized moth particles.

8. Mosquito Traps

Mosquito traps are a great way you can get rid of adult moths—these traps suck flying moths in and kill them.

Mosquito traps use light, heat, and CO2 to attract mosquitos. Although moths are not attracted to heat and CO2, they are attracted to light. In some cases, mosquito trap lights are weak and not bright enough to attract many moths.

To make these traps more effective, you can purchase a gypsy moth lure and replace it with the CO2 lure inside the trap. This will ensure that the moths fly towards the trap.

To use mosquito traps to get rid of moths, place the device near a light source. Once the moths approach the light, the traps will suck them in and kill them.

The number of traps you will need to get rid of moths completely will depend on how large your infestation is.

9. Destroy the Egg Masses

One of the most efficient ways to reduce a gypsy moth population is to eliminate the eggs. Gypsy moth eggs are typically attached to surfaces such as tree bark, plants, or buildings.

They are about 1-2 inches long and contain all the eggs from a single female gypsy moth, ranging from 500 to 1000 eggs.

They take on a light brown or beige color similar to that of a manila folder and have a felt-like appearance and touch.

These masses will stay attached to the surface even after they hatch, but it’s still important to inspect and remove as many active egg masses as possible.

There are many ways to get rid of the gypsy moth larvae, but the most important thing is that you make sure they are dead. You don’t want the eggs hatching later on in your trash can or inside a vacuum.

An effective and easy way to remove them is to use any object that will allow you to scrap them off. This includes a butter knife, construction scrapper, or a branch.

After scrapping them off, you want to place them inside a small bucket with water and insecticidal soap. This will make sure that they die and don’t hatch at a later point.

Remember, knocking the egg masses off the surface they are attached to is not enough. This can leave many eggs alive, and they will hatch later.

If you are not using the water method, you want to make sure you completely smash them to destroy all the eggs.

10. Apply Insecticides

Insecticides are another effective way to get rid of Gypsy moths. That said, I recommend only using insecticides as a last resort. Save them for large infestations or when the damage is causing the tree to die.

You should avoid insecticides as much as possible as it can be harmful to other beneficial insects and animals.

When applying insecticides, make sure to exercise caution. Be as thorough and methodical as possible to limit the amount of insecticide you use.

For easy application, I recommend using a pressurized sprayer.

Another thing to consider is using biological insecticides. For this, I recommend Codling moth granulosis virus (sold as Cyd-X) and Spinosad.

Cyd-X is a safe biological pesticide and won’t harm bees or other beneficial insects. Add 1% horticultural oil to Cyd-X for increased effectiveness. It’s important that you re-apply every week to target larvae once the eggs hatch. You will need to re-apply at least three or four times per generation.

Spinosad is another low-toxicity pesticide you can use. Like Cyd-X, You can add 1% horticultural oil to make it more effective. Re-apply every seven to ten days or three times per generation.

I recommend combining low-toxicity insecticides with non-chemical methods. Since Insecticides are only effective at killing caterpillars as they hatch, using other non-chemical methods will increase the chances of success.

11. Maintain your yard and garden

Maintaining your yard reduces hiding spots available for moths.

To minimize moths around your property, cut growing vegetation. Pick up any decaying fruit and organic matter in your yard to make your property as unappealing to moths as possible.

You also want to reduce any potential areas that trap moisture. A good area to check is your water hose spout, where the grass is long, and there is high moisture.

12. Remove woodpiles

Gypsy moths love to use decaying wood and debris for shelter. Gypsy moths use decaying wood and debris for shelter. It provides them a safe place to hide and lay their eggs.

Make sure to get rid of any pile of wood or fallen branches from your home. Wood piles create excellent protection for the moths.

13. Let Your Neighbors / local forest service Know

If you’re having problems with Gypsy moths, it’s important to report it to your local forest service. You’d also want to let your neighbors know.

Gypsy moths can cause plenty of damage to trees. And they are a danger to our forest if not controlled.

Because Gypsy moths are not native to the United States, careful monitoring is essential to prevent the moths’ devastating effects.

The gypsy moth is responsible for many of the damaged hardwood forests in North America. As such, the forest service and state environmental agencies are cooperating to prevent the moths from spreading.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Gypsy Moths Eat?

Gypsy moth caterpillars eat a variety of plants.

Younger caterpillars eat soft leaves. As they get older, they begin to consume tougher leaves. Older caterpillars also like to feed on hardwood trees, such as oak, willow, alder, and hawthorn. That said, adult larvae will eat almost any vegetation when food is scarce.

Adult gypsy moths feed on nectar and pollen. Although, they do not eat much, as they have short lives.

What type of damage do Gypsy moths cause?

Gypsy moth caterpillars are voracious eaters of leaves. They would eat the leaves from the outer edge of a leaf and work their way inwards. Older caterpillars also like to feed on hardwood trees, such as oak, willow, alder, and hawthorn.

Gypsy moth caterpillars generally attach themselves to host trees and eat their healthy leaves. You’ll see these trees bald in the middle of the summer season when they’re supposed to be blooming.

While most trees can survive the infestation, repeated exposure to Gypsy moths can cause a tree to die.

How Long Do Gypsy Moth Caterpillars Live?

Gypsy moths stay in the caterpillar stage for about seven weeks. This is the time they do most of the damage. 

After passing through five to six molting stages, the caterpillar pupates for about two weeks. Adult moths live for about two weeks after emerging from pupation. Their sole purpose is to mate and reproduce.

What is defoliation?

Defoliation is the process of removing foliage from healthy trees. It’s the result of Gypsy moth caterpillars feeding on a tree host.

These caterpillars attach themselves to host trees and voraciously eat the leaves.

As a result, you will see the host tree bald in the middle of the summer season when they’re supposed to be blooming.

How long does a gypsy moth infestation last?

Gypsy moths stay in the caterpillar stage for about seven weeks. They are the most active during the summer months, between May and June. This is the time they do most of the damage.

The caterpillar passes through five to six stages before pupating for two weeks. After two weeks the adult moth will emerge. Adult moths live for about two weeks after emerging from pupation. Their sole purpose is to mate and reproduce.

After mating, female Gypsy moths hibernate for the winter and continue the cycle by spring time. The rest of the gypsy moths die during winter.

Do gypsy moths come every year?

Yes. Gypsy moths show up once a year during spring or summer depending on the weather.

As the temperature rises, female Gypsy moths will come out of hibernation every spring to lay eggs. The eggs will eventually mature to mate. The pregnant female Gypsy moths will then go on to hibernate, repeating the cycle.

Gypsy moth populations will go through cycles. Their populations decrease and increase overtime.

Why are gypsy moths a problem?

Gypsy moths can cause plenty of damage to trees. These invasive pests are voracious eaters of over three hundred species of trees and shrubs.

Because Gypsy moths are not native to the United States, they can have devastating effects if not controlled.

The gypsy moth is responsible for many of the damaged hardwood forests in North America. As such, the forest service and state environmental agencies are cooperating to prevent the moths from spreading.

Are gypsy moths attracted to light?

Yes, adult gypsy moths are attracted to light like many other species of moths. While they are attracted to light, they don’t fly towards it as often as other species of moths.

Often times they will remain in the dark in search for mater or near their egg sacs.

Gypsy moth caterpillars on the other hand are known to shy away from light. Although, light is not an effective repellent, the larva have tend to prefer the darkness.

When do gypsy moths lay eggs?

Gypsy moths typically lay eggs during spring when they emerge from their cocoon. The main goal of an adult moth is to reproduce and find a location to lay its eggs.

Adults only live a short period, approximately two weeks in most cases. Often, adults will not eat while they live, especially if they have not laid their eggs or reproduced.

What is the Gypsy Moth Life Cycle?

Gypsy moths go through four different stages during their life cycle.

  1. Egg
  2. Larva/Caterpillar
  3. Pupa
  4. Adult


Eggs are laid during September or before winter begins. This will allow the eggs to survive the cold conditions. Gypsy moths spend most of their life in the egg stage, typically not hatching until the next season begins approximately 8-10 months later.

The eggs hatch during spring or summer, depending on the conditions.

Eggs are laid in large masses approximately 2 inches long, with 500 – 1000 eggs in a single mass. These masses are a light brown to dark brown color and have a soft, felt-like feel to them.


Larva / Caterpillar

The caterpillar stage is the stage familiar to most people. Caterpillars cause the most damage to trees. They are known for causing damage to tree bark, branches, flowers, and leaves.

In severe infestations after multiple seasons, they can completely kill a tree. The gypsy caterpillar typically remains in this stage for 2-4 months before creating its pupa.



During the pupa stage, the caterpillars create a cocoon for themselves. The caterpillars will remain inside for two weeks until they are ready to emerge as an adult gypsy moth.



Adults spend the least amount of their life as an adult. They only live between two weeks and one month. In many cases, gypsy moths die before they can eat.

The sole purpose of the adult gypsy moth is to reproduce and find a suitable location to lay its eggs. This ensures that their population will survive another season.

Leave a Comment