U.S. Customs finds destructive moth eggs aboard ship in Baltimore

Four egg clusters from a destructive moth species were found aboard a vehicle transport ship in Baltimore, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Agriculture specialists discovered Asian gypsy moth egg masses and a dead adult moth during a routine inspection aboard the M/V Gaia Leader. The moth and eggs were found July 25, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab confirmed they were Asian gypsy moths Aug. 7, according to a news release from U.S. Customs.

The egg masses were removed and agriculture specialists treated the areas where they were found on the ship.

Asian gypsy moths, which differ from European gypsy moths, can attack more than 500 species of trees and plants, threatening U.S. forests and urban landscapes, according to the USDA. The moths can lay egg masses containing hundreds of caterpillars, and females can travel up to 25 miles per day.

The flightless European gypsy moths are already well-established in the Northeast U.S. Although their diet is more limited — they prefer oak trees — they defoliate an average of 4 million acres per year.

Damage by an established Asian gypsy moth population could be more extensive. Asian gypsy moths were first found in the U.S. in 1991, and there have been several infestations in the Pacific Northwest and North Carolina.

It’s unclear where the moths on the ship in Baltimore originated, but in June the ship stopped in Japan, a high-risk area for Asian gypsy moths.

smeehan@baltsun.com

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