Beauty Of Animals | The Beauty Of Gypsy Moth | The hatching of gypsy motheggs coincides with budding of most hardwood trees. Larvae (caterpillars) emerge from egg masses from early spring through mid-May. Gypsy moths are dispersed in two ways. Natural dispersal occurs when newly hatched larvae hanging from host trees on silken threads are carried by the wind for a distance of up to about 1 mile citation needed, although most go less than 50 meters.
Eggs can be carried for longer distances. Artificial dispersal occurs when people transport gypsy moth eggs thousands of miles from infested areas on cars and recreational vehicles, firewood, household goods, and other personal possessions. Females are flightless in most varieties, so these are the only means of spreading. Older gypsy moth caterpillar in frontal view
Larvae develop into adults by going through a series of progressive moults through which they increase in size. Instars are the stages between each molt. Male larvae normally go through five instars (and females, six) before entering the pupal stage. Newly hatched larvae are black with long hair-like setae. Older larvae have five pairs of raised blue spots and six pairs of raised brick-red spots along their backs, and a sprinkling of setae.
During the first three instars, larvae remain in the middle of trees or crowns of host trees. The first stage or instar chews small holes in the leaves. The second and third instars feed from the outer edge of the leaf toward the center.
When population numbers are sparse, the movement of the larvae up and down the tree coincides with light intensity. Larvae in the fourth instar feed in the top branches or crown at night. When the sun comes up, larvae crawl down the trunk of the tree to rest during daylight hours. Larvae hide under flaps of bark, in crevices, or under branches - any place that provides protection. When larvae hide underneath leaf litter, mice, shrews, and Calosoma beetles can prey on them. At dusk, when the sun sets, larvae climb back up to the top branches of the host tree to feed. When population numbers are dense, however, larvae feed continuously day and night until the foliage of the host tree is stripped. Then they crawl in search of new sources of food.
Full-grown caterpillars are 40–50 mm long (Porter, 1997).
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