Lymantria dispar

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Lymantria dispar
Mounted Lymantria dispar dispar male
Mounted Lymantria dispar dispar female
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Superfamily: Noctuoidea
Family: Erebidae
Genus: Lymantria
L. dispar
Binomial name
Lymantria dispar

L. d. dispar
L. d. asiatica
L. d. japonica

  • Phalaena dispar Linnaeus, 1758
  • Ocneria dispar (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Porthetria dispar (Linnaeus, 1758)
A Lymantria dispar caterpillar

Lymantria dispar, also known as the gypsy moth[1] or the spongy moth,[2][3] is an Eurasian species of moth in the family Erebidae. Lymantria dispar is subdivided into several subspecies, with subspecies such as L. d. dispar and L. d. japonica being clearly identifiable without ambiguity. Lymantria dispar has been introduced to several continents and is now found in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and South America. The polyphagous larvae live on a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees[4] and can cause severe damage in years of mass reproduction. Due to these features, Lymantria dispar is listed among the world's 100 worst invasive alien species.[5]


The etymology of “gypsy moth” is not conclusively known; however, the term is known to have been in use as early as 1908.[6]

Moths of the subfamily Lymantriinae are commonly called tussock moths due to the tussock-like tufts of hair on the caterpillars.[7]: 9 

The name Lymantria dispar is composed of two Latin-derived words. The generic name Lymantria means 'destroyer'.[8] The species epithet dispar means 'to separate' in Latin; it refers to the sexual dimorphism observed in the male and female imagines.[7]: 9 

In July 2021 the Entomological Society of America decided to remove the name "gypsy moth" from its Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms List as "hurtful to the Romani people", since gypsy is an ethnic slur.[9][10] In January 2022, the new common name "spongy moth" was proposed, as a translation from the French name "spongieuse" for the species, referring to the sponge-like egg masses laid by L. dispar.[2]


The North American and European Lymantria dispar moths are considered to be the same subspecies, usually referred to as Lymantria dispar dispar.[11]: 6  Confusion over the classification of species and subspecies exists. The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines the Asian subspecies as "any biotype of L. dispar possessing female flight capability",[11]: 5  despite L. d. asiatica not being the only accepted subspecies that is capable of flight.[11]: 6  Traditionally, L. dispar has been referred to as "gypsy moth" even when referring to Japanese, Indian and Asiatic populations.[11]: 5 


Subspecies Distribution Identifying characteristics
Lymantria dispar dispar Europe, western Asia and north Africa,[11]: 6  introduced to Eastern North America Females winged but flightless[11]: 6 
Lymantria dispar asiatica Eastern Asia,[11]: 6  introduced to western North America and to Europe[12] Females winged and capable of flight; attracted to lights[11]: 6 
Lymantria dispar japonica All of Japan[11]: 6  Large males, very dark brown color[11]: 6 

The European subspecies (Lymantria dispar dispar) is native to temperate forests in western Europe. It had been introduced to the United States in 1869, and to Canada in 1912.

The Asian subspecies (Lymantria dispar asiatica) is native to temperate Asia east of the Ural mountains. Since the early 1990s it has also been detected along the West Coast of temperate North America. From Southern Europe it is spreading northwards into Germany and other countries, where it hybridizes with the European spongy moth, L. d. dispar.[citation needed] A colony had been reported from Great Britain in 1995.[citation needed]

Biological pest control measures[edit]

After the species was accidentally introduced in North America by artist and astronomer Étienne Léopold Trouvelot in 1869, several species of parasitoids and predators have been introduced as biological control agents in attempts to help control this moth. Beginning in the late 1800s, at least 10 species have become established in this way, but for nearly a century there was little regulation or research on the effectiveness or non-target effects of these introduced natural enemies. Several were generalists that offered little control of L. dispar and attacked other native insects. One such species is the tachinid fly Compsilura concinnata, which attacked many other host species (over 180 known hosts documented), decimating many of the large moth species previously abundant in the Northeast.[13] Another is the encyrtid wasp Ooencyrtus kuvanae which attacks L. dispar eggs but is not strictly host specific, and also parasitizes the eggs of other Lepidoptera species.[14][15] The most effective control agents are microbial pathogens: a virus (LdmNPV), and a fungus (Entomophaga maimaiga).[16]



  1. ^ "Bug experts seeking new name for destructive gypsy moths". July 9, 2021. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  2. ^ a b ""Spongy Moth" Proposed as New Common Name for Lymantria Dispar". January 25, 2022.
  3. ^ "'Spongy Moth' Adopted as New Common Name for Lymantria dispar". Entomological Society of America. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  4. ^ FAO - Profiles of selected forest pests[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "100 of the World's Worst Invasive Alien Species". Global Invasive Species Database. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Gypsy moth etymology=19 November 2022". wttw.
  7. ^ a b The Gypsy Moth: Research Toward Integrated Pest Management, United States Department of Agriculture, 1981
  8. ^ Free Dictionary for Lymantria
  9. ^ "Entomological Society of America Discontinues Use of Gypsy Moth, Ant Names". Entomological Society of America. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  10. ^ Doubek, James (2021-07-10). "Insect Experts Will Change The Name Of The 'Gypsy Moth' And 'Gypsy Ant'". npr. Retrieved 2021-07-22.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pogue, Michael. "A review of selected species of Lymantria Huber [1819]" (PDF). Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Asian Gypsy Moth Lymantria dispar asiatica". Pest Tracker National Agricultural Pest Information System. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  13. ^ Biological Control Backfires
  14. ^ Christenson, Amy (June 1997). "Know Your Friends". Midwest Biological Control News. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018.
  15. ^ Brown, M. W. (1984). "Literature review of Ooencyrtus kuvanae [Hym.: Encyrtidae], an egg parasite of Lymantria dispar [Lep: Lymantriidae]". Entomophaga. 29 (3): 249–265. doi:10.1007/BF02372112. S2CID 867738.
  16. ^ Tom W. Coleman, Laurel J. Haavik, Chris Foelker, Andrew M. Liebhold (2020) USDA Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet 162: Gypsy Moth

External links[edit]