So I’ve known for quite some time about the “Gypsy Moth Menace”, but it wasn’t until this summer that I noticed an actual gypsy moth. It began in Spring when I saw (and photographed) a small, early instar and unfamiliar caterpillar walking up the brick of my house. My ignorance undeterred, I let that one slip into the recesses of my photo archives. A little while later in the local state park, I found a more developed but only slightly less undistinguished specimen; another one bites the archive-oblivion dust. My third strike seemed to come finding a pretty yet entirely dead (and unphotographed) one in the road while walking a pooch client (I walk and pet sit dogs; the dog was nonplussed, and we moved on fast).
And so, it appears these were precursors for my enlightenment on exactly what a gypsy moth actually looks like. I came upon a beautiful caterpillar with bright red and blue tubercles; the amount of setae quickly pointed me in the direction and confirmation of the identification. What then came was what to do with the insect. Because from what I read, there was something to be done.
In short, that doing was to destroy the moth. This individual was not among a large clutch of defoliating larvae, but from what I read, it seemed clear I should not let this creature procreate. The only problem was I had no desire to kill it. My solution was to take it captive and give it a “life sentence.” And this is how I viewed it. As much as I love insects, keeping them as pets is not a strong interest. The caterpillar was not too far from pupation, and even though at times I thought perhaps it was dead or dying, I eventually found a pupa and then a female moth. What ensued was a depressing (yet impressive?) display of male gypsy moths fluttering frantically at door windows and screens of my home. The adult stage was shorter-lived (perhaps because I had an inadequate food supply); the narrative in mind was perhaps baroque compared to, or even divorced from, the reality of the situation. It was one individual and either way, letting it go, killing it, or holding it captive, was not going to make much of a difference. Still I wonder if simply and quickly killing it would have been the better thing to do.