Winter Moth Alert

Mar17th 20116 comments

Winter Moth Damage: Example of damage caused by Winter MothWinter Moth Damage: Example of damage caused by Winter Moth

Tree buds are a welcome sign of spring. Unfortunately, spring also signals the return of the dreaded winter moth. In Massachusetts, the Eastern part of the state typically sees the most damage. If not treated properly, and soon, emerging leaves could be riddled with holes, and complete defoliation may ultimately kill maple, oak, apples, cherry, linden and ash trees in as little as four-years. Many outbreaks popped-up last spring, causing concern for this spring. Additionally, the high amount of winter moths we saw this winter is an early warning sign that outbreaks may be high.

Winter Moth Damage: A winter moth caterpillar eating, an already, partially consumed leaf. Research has indicated that tree mortality is likely in as little as four consecutive years of defoliation.Winter Moth Damage: A winter moth caterpillar eating, an already, partially consumed leaf. Research has indicated that tree mortality is likely in as little as four consecutive years of defoliation.

When temperatures begin to average 55°F, the winter moth eggs begin to hatch. The newly hatched caterpillars, resembling an inch worm with a white “racing stripe” down the side, wiggle their way under the scales of flower and leaf buds to feed on the unopened bud. As the caterpillars grow, they continue to feed on unfolding leaves and are capable of defoliation on a large scale.  If spring flowering is delayed, the problem is further intensified as caterpillars continue to feed on closed buds. In fruit trees, such as apple or blueberry, this may lead to a loss of fruiting.

Fortunately, there are treatments that are not only effective, but if handled properly, environmentally friendly. The first level of defense is to spray trees now with horticultural oil, such as Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil. This spray smothers the eggs while the trees are still dormant (no leaves out). Make sure to apply when temperatures are above freezing for 48 hours, so as not damage the plants. Cover as much bark and stems as can safely be reached. This method will dramatically lower populations; however additional treatments may be needed as some eggs may be protected by bark or lichens on the tree.

Winter Moth Solutions: All Seasons Horticultural oil (left) and Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew (right) by BonideWinter Moth Solutions: All Seasons Horticultural oil (left) and Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew (right) by Bonide

As leaves unfold, caterpillars will appear to swing from the trees on silky strands spreading to neighboring trees. At that time a foliar insecticide containing spinosad,  (Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew) should be applied. Spinosad is a natural bacterium that targets caterpillars and similar insects.  Once ingested, the caterpillars will stop feeding immediately and die within two-to-three days. If trees are sprayed as the leaves are unfolding an additional application will protect the untreated foliage.

Bonide All Seasons Horticultural Oil and Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew are available at all Mahoney’s, and most homeowners can handle spraying their smaller trees*. Larger trees are too hard to reach and require proper equipment. Mahoney’s SafeLawns and Landscapes offer spraying services capable of reaching the tops of large trees, as well as smaller. We can also protect against another destructive invasive insect, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid,  For more information or to schedule an appointment call (781) 305-5555.

* As always read and follow label instructions. Additionally, when spraying fruit trees, take care to protect foraging bees by spraying early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the bees are less active.

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Dang Winter Moths

Not too many ways to get rid of winter moths that are simple - for that I thank you for bringing this too my attention, my grandpa who lives north of me is always complaining about them, will have to buy him some winter moth solutions :)

current little white moths everywhere!

I've been trying to figure out what the hundreds of little 1/3-1/2" white moths are that are in the garden, and around any light they can find at night. They are almost pure white, some have a few tiny brown markings along the leading edge of the wings, some have a few along the lower 1/3 of wing in a line. Have you heard anything? I'm on the South Shore.

Little White Moths


Would you be able to send us a photo of these little white moths? It sounds like it is a type of Spanworm, possibly the lesser Maple Spanworm (photo here: ) but it is always best to identify with photos when possible. The moths typically do not cause damage on plants, but will be searching for places to lay their eggs.

apple trees and blueberry bushes winter moth

Hi, i just bought this new property and there are lots of apple trees and blueberry bushes on it. Unfortunately, they were totally infested with moths and worms and and seemed very sickly, producing no fruit at all. I love plants, but this seems a bit much to deal with. I would love some harvest from these beautiful trees and bushes, but I hate pesticides. Are there any organic solutions
you could share with me? If poison is the only way I'll have to try. Thanks, JDF

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