Sneak attacks on winter moths

  A winter moth caterpillar, above, and the moth as a, well, moth beiow.

A winter moth caterpillar, above, and the moth as a, well, moth beiow.

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Adapted from Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

In happy environmental news, there’s good news for maple, oak and other trees, as well as blueberry bushes, defoliated by winter moths, aka Operophtera Brumata L.


A University of Massachusetts at Amherst scientist named Joseph Elkinton, working with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has developed a “biocontrol’’ method of killing the moths without pesticides with Cyzenis Albicans flies. The flies lay eggs on leaves eaten by winter moth caterpillars. The eggs hatch inside the caterpillars, and then the flies’ larvae eat the caterpillar from the inside out. Delightfully macabre, eh?

The winter moths are an invasive species that arrived in New England in the 1990s, with the spread associated with global warming. New England’s big trees are one of our region’s glories; it’s nice to know we can save more of them now without toxic chemicals.