Sunday, February 14, 2016

Caterpillars in Forest Ecology

Too often, in our efforts to solve a problem, we forget the big picture.  When it comes to forests infested with Gypsy moths, an invasive species which infests 500 species of trees, some foresters are willing to kill them at any cost.

Spicebush butterfly nectaring in Wood Lily
 Our native butterflies and moths are often "collateral damage."  They are not the targeted species, but the BtK or favorite poison-of-the-year is not species selective.  All butterfly or moth caterpillars in the treated area die.

Red-spotted Purple rests in a White Pine .
Trees are used by caterpillars and caterpillars are a primary source of food for birds feeding young. There is an entire food web to consider.  Our forests are ecosystems in which many species are dependent upon another.  However, too often our public officials treat our forests as a "tree farm" for timber products only.  Selectively treating for one "problem" species can create a cascade of unwanted consequences.

Tulip tree is a host plant for Tiger Swallowtails.
 Many environmentally conscious groups voiced concern over last years use of BtK on Gypsy moths.  It is non-selective and can kill many species of butterflies and moths. It is a cheaper fix with a much higher long-term cost. Ohio Lepidopterist Society urged Forestry to use only mating-disrupting pheromones or Gypchek. These two products specifically target Gypsy moth.

For this year at least, the use of BtK has been halted.  So let's use this very short comment period to thank Forestry for being more pro-ecosystem in 2016!
You can download this form at the link below.
You can down load a PDF comment sheet at
Thank you for helping us remind Forestry, we care about our ecosystems, including insects! The decline of butterflies and moths has been well documented all across the United States.  Help us "treat the problem" of gypsy moth without impacting all of the beneficial native species as well.  It may cost a few dollars more, but our forests are worth it.

Comment period end Feb 24th!!  Sign and send today!


  1. Thank you for this clear, concise post on the devastating effect of BtK on native butterflies and moths and the alternative that will not harm them. Thank you, too, for making the PDF so easily accessible!

  2. ...thanks for posting, Cheryl. I just printed out a copy to sign and send in.

  3. Thank Lisa and Kelly-
    from me and the flutter-bys!