It appears that cuckoos are the best natural way to keep the gypsy moth population at bay.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Massachusetts inhabitants are currently dealing with an invasion of gypsy moths. The population is usually kept at bay by a local fungus, however, due to an unusually dry spring, the caterpillars flourished, and now the moths have emerged, whitening the trees in their paths.

Gypsy moths, or the Lymantria dispar dispar,  were first introduced in the United States in 1860. The insects were brought from Europe with the intention of being interbred with silk worms. Unfortunately, the silkworm industry did not flourish, and the insects were released into the wild.

Only ten years after being released on the US territory, the Lymantria dispar dispar was already considered a nuisance by local inhabitants. Their numbers grew so rapidly that trees lost foliage and caterpillars were falling from the sky.

Even its scientific name suggests that the insect causes damage wherever it goes. The Latin Lymantria meaning “destroyer.” Dispar roughly translates as “unequal,” suggesting that the moth has different characteristics between sexes.

Apart from taking over entire habitats, the gypsy moth also has a negative impact on the population of the northern tiger swallowtail. The habitats of the two overlap and, unfortunately for the swallowtail, the bodily fluid, and pathogens secreted by the gypsy moth are lethal for the caterpillars of the swallowtail.

According to a 2010 report, the Lymantria dispar dispar is responsible for widespread defoliation and produces damages of millions of dollars on a yearly basis. Apart from enhancing the effects of climate change, defoliation also affects the population of forest birds. It was scientifically proven that the insects have a significant direct impact on the behavior of the avian inhabitants of the forests.

Due to an increase in temperatures that allowed the population of the white moth to flourish, Massachusetts is now in the middle of a crisis. The insects are slowly taking over the county, defoliating trees, and disturbing the avian population.

Luckily, there are a few birds who are happy with the increased number of Lymantria dispar dispar specimens. Both Black-billed and Yellow-billed cuckoos are natural predators of the insect. This means that the winged hunters are being presented with a treat in the Bay State.

Have you ever had problems with the invasive nature of gypsy moths? If so, tell us your story in the comment section below.

Image source: Flickr