The gypsy moth is an invasive insect species that was introduced into the United States in Massachusetts back in the late 1860s. The first gypsy moth outbreak did not occur until 1889, but since then, this species has spread to other northeast and upper midwest states, and it has become one of the most significant insect pests to trees in North America.

Specifically, it is gypsy moth caterpillars (larvae) that damage and eventually kill trees by feeding on the hardwood of many different tree species. Although gypsy moth caterpillars are most commonly associated with the significant damage that they cause to forests in the northeast, these insect pests can be a nuisance within urban and suburban neighborhoods as well.

For the past 15 years, gypsy moths have been spreading to new areas by hitching rides on vehicles and on personal possessions such as firewood and furniture. These insects also commonly congregate on the sides of homes and on outdoor furniture. During heavy invasions, gypsy moths swarm into people’s homes. One Winthrop resident, Rob Savino, claimed that gypsy moths gathered on his doors and windows in large number for weeks back in 2016. Savino also claimed that if he left his windows rolled down at night, he could always expect to find his truck filled with the moths the next morning.

In addition to being a nuisance on residential properties, a thick swarm of gypsy moths prevented airline passengers from deboarding a plane after it had landed at Boston’s Logan Airport in early July of 2016. The passengers were forced to remain seated on the flight for over an hour until officials cleared the moths from the gate. To make the situation worse, the plane could not take off again for another several hours due to the moth swarms causing visibility issues for the pilot.

Have you ever witnessed a swarm of moths descend upon urban or suburban areas of Massachusetts?