[CT Birds] Gypsy Moth

Stephen Broker ls.broker at cox.net
Mon Jun 20 19:47:32 EDT 2016

My grandfather-in-law, Marlin Downer Farnum, was born in Medford, Massachusetts.  Medford, Massachusetts is the site of the introduction of gypsy moth into the United States.  (See Wikipedia, the ultimate website for factual information of all sorts.)  

In the early 1980s, I was a student in the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.  One of my courses, Silviculture, was taught by the great forester, David M. Smith.  Dave Smith (known out of earshot as D.M.), was the successor to Ralph Hawley (“Mr. Hawley") as the forester in charge of the Eli Whitney forest and the several Yale forests.  I wrote a paper on gypsy moth for his course, and in the paper I cited a recently published article that suggested gypsy moths were beneficial in that they returned organic material to the forest floor.  Dave Smith’s comment on my paper was that “one would think the greatest thing that ever happened to the eastern deciduous forest was the introduction of the gypsy moth”.  Needless to say, I did not get an A on the paper.

Here at the Outer Cape, gypsy moth caterpillars have stripped the black oak and white oak trees of essentially all their leaves.  Standing outside, one hears a steady rain of caterpillar frass coming down from above.  All surfaces have been covered by 1/2 inch to 1 inch caterpillars, and they drop out of the sky onto any and all surfaces below, including oneself.  I have yet to see any bird species scarfing up these tasty morsels.  This is a good year for both cuckoo species, but it also is a good year for tent caterpillars.       

Some of my fellow New Haven Bird Club members will enjoy knowing that Dave and Bobbie Smith spent their retirement years at the Whitney Center in Hamden.

Steve Broker
Cheshire, CT & Wellfleet, MA     

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