A group of volunteers in Perth, Ont., is trying to remove egg clusters from LDD moth caterpillars, a forest-defoliating insect that has swept through the region chomping away at the small town’s tree canopy. As this plague continues to spread, Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma, and Northern Ontario should pay close attention.
Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) moths, formerly known as Gypsy moths, are only about four to six centimetres long when they are caterpillars, but the little crawlers have a voracious appetite.
Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry used aerial photography to determine LDD moth caterpillars had defoliated 586,385 hectares in 2020, and almost 1.8 million hectares in 2021.
Donnelly said each egg cluster can contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 eggs that will survive the winter. Now, volunteers in Perth hope to mitigate the invasive species going forward by scraping LDD egg clusters off trees around town.
Long-time resident Kate Donnelly is leading the effort because she saw the devastation the insects caused to trees last summer.
“There [are] six parks in town that we definitely are going to be working on. So depending on how long it takes us to move through the parks, we may have to stop at a certain point and then pick it up again earlier in the spring,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly recruited about 17 volunteers who use butter knives or other dull-bladed instruments to carefully remove the egg clusters that cling to the tree bark. After the clusters are removed, the volunteers place them in warm, soapy water for about 48 hours before disposing of them.
A single egg cluster contains anywhere from 100-1,000 eggs that will survive the winter, Donnelly said, which is why it’s so important to get rid of as many as possible.
Shannon Baillon, director of community services for the Town of Perth, says a group of volunteers has been scraping egg clusters off trees in an attempt to thwart the Lymantria dispar dispar (LDD) moths, formerly known as Gypsy moths.
‘We want to keep them alive’
Shannon Baillon, community services director for Town of Perth, said she appreciated the help because the town doesn’t have the resources to remove the egg clusters on its own.
“It’s just important to keep our trees healthy. We want to keep them alive. We want to give them every possible chance to survive winter, Baillon said. “We know that we won’t remove all of them, but the feeling is that every little bit will help,” she said.
The town is helping direct volunteers to the group and advertises the work on social media and other platforms. It also encourages all residents to take a look around their own property for the egg clusters and remove them.
Michelle Vala, Lanark County’s Climate Environmental Coordinator, said the infestation started in the western part of the county, but the Perth area was the main target last year.
She said the county expects the infestation will continue spreading eastward in spring 2022.
As the LDD moth population increases, though, it becomes more susceptible to virus, and Vala and her colleagues expect next summer they could begin to see a mass die off of the caterpillars.
–with files from cbc.ca