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February 2, 2009

The West Windsor Township Shade Tree Commission offers the following notification regarding the population of gypsy moth within the Township in 2009. 

In 2008, West Windsor Township did not experience significant defoliation due to Gypsy Moths.  More specifically, the Department of Agriculture has indicated that West Windsor did not experience any significant areas of defoliation in 2008, in the past this has been defined as, any positives (greater than 520 egg masses per acre) recorded during their survey.  The Township is not part of the 2009 State-wide spraying.  This does not mean that no gypsy moth damage occurred in West Windsor Township.  It is expected that natural and introduced biological controls will manage the population of moth infestation in 2009, at a level that will not result in a significant impact upon the West Windsor Township community forest resource.  In general, the State is presently experiencing a significant decline in defoliation problems due to Gypsy Moth, indicating that management practices are working.  

Gypsy Moth Control

The gypsy moth is the most destructive forest insect pest to infest New Jersey's forests.
Repeated yearly defoliation by the gypsy moth represents a serious threat to New Jersey woodland and shade tree resources.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture and West Windsor Township promote an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which encourages natural controls to reduce gypsy moth feeding and subsequent tree loss. This approach is employed to protect and preserve the municipality’s and your valuable shade tree resources, yet avoid residual effects to other species.  However, when gypsy moth cycles are at a peak, natural controls have difficulty in preventing severe defoliation. In these special cases, the Department recommends aerial spray treatments on residential and recreational areas using the selective, non-chemical insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, as well as typical appropriate cultural practices (e.g., mulching, pruning of problematic branches, attention to water needs during the growing season) to promote tree health. 

The Department's Gypsy Moth Suppression Program is a voluntary cooperative program involving New Jersey municipalities, county agencies, state agencies, and the USDA Forest Service.  In order to protect New Jersey's valuable forest resources, the Department conducts aerial defoliation and ground egg mass surveys, monitors the application, and evaluates the efficacy of the spray material.

How do I recognize gypsy moths?
The gypsy moth feeds on a wide variety of trees, which include oak, maple, birch, beech, willow, and hickory.  The larger caterpillars also have been known to feed on pine, spruce, hemlock and many common ornamentals.  Trees that are rarely attacked by the gypsy moth larvae include tulip poplar, ash, dogwood, rhododendron and cedar.  In New Jersey, because of the time of caterpillar occurrence and feeding habits, gypsy moth is most often confused with the eastern tent caterpillar.

The eastern tent caterpillar is often mistaken for the gypsy moth. Though they are similar in appearance, they differ in habits.  The fully grown eastern tent caterpillar is about 2 inches long, black with a white stripe along the middle of the back and a row of pale blue oval spots on each side. It is sparsely covered with fine light brown hairs.  The gypsy moth caterpillar, when fully grown, is also about 2 inches long, but it has pairs of blue and red spots on its back.  Unlike the gypsy moth, the eastern tent caterpillar can be readily identified by the tent it constructs in the forks of tree branches.  Leaf-feeding, by eastern tent caterpillar, can be prevented on small trees by destroying tents with a stick or pole, thereby exposing the caterpillars to birds. Another preventive method is to prune the egg masses from twigs before the early spring hatch.  A comparison of gypsy moth and eastern tent caterpillars can be viewed at: .

What should I do?

Following an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, West Windsor Township recommends that homeowners’ associations and individual property owners contact a Certified Arborist or Tree Expert, to examine specimen trees and/or woodland.  An Arborist can prescribe and implement appropriate cultural practices that will promote the vigor and health of the tree resource and also determine if treatment via ground spraying is appropriate in 2009 to control excessive gypsy moth damage or any other conditions.

If you are concerned that woodland, you or your homeowners association manages may contain high populations of the gypsy moth, you may contact private spray applicators to have your area sprayed during early spring.  The best time to spray for gypsy moth caterpillar control is in early May (from May 5-31).  This is dependent upon the insecticide to be used and the larval development. In general, the caterpillars should be about ½ inch long and the foliage should be at least 1/3 grown when sprays are to be applied.  If aerial spraying is called for, arrangements should be made immediately, in February, due to limited availability. 

The Township will not be conducting aerial spraying of woodlands or trees in 2009.  Treatment of individual trees from the ground may be implemented as needed to preserve specimen trees.  Please note that repeated annual infestations present a concern, but minor or sporadic infestations should not lead to the demise of trees or woodland unless the tree(s) are under stress due to other causes.


Please be aware that Chemical insecticides may adversely affect beneficial insects, such as honeybees and/or aquatic insects, Bacillus thuringiensis however does not.  This biological insecticide only affects leaf feeding insects and is considered safe for people and pets.  If you decide to treat your own property for gypsy moth control, be sure to use only those insecticides labeled for the control of gypsy moths and follow the directions on the label carefully.

Individuals seeking additional information about pesticides may contact the National Pesticide Information Center at (800) 858-7378. For emergencies, call the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System at (800) 222-1222. For pesticide regulation information, pesticide complaints, and health referrals, call the New Jersey Pesticide Control Program at (609) 984-6507.

Residents can play an active role in the statewide process filing a written request to the Township Department of Public Works, about the location of gypsy moth infestations within the Township by early September and by requesting that the Department of Agriculture be requested to conduct a gypsy moth egg mass survey. In late December, a follow-up letter should be submitted to determine if your area was indeed included in a spray block and if the Township has been invited to participate in the Department of Agriculture cooperative program.

Additional information

Additional information about the program is also available at the NJ Department of Agriculture web site.  The majority of the information presented in this notice was obtained or adapted from this web site:

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Township of West Windsor • 271 Clarksville Road • PO Box 38 • West Windsor, NJ 08550 • 609-799-2400