FAQ - Winter & Gypsy Moth


    As we look forward towards Spring, the topic on the town quickly shifts focus towards making sure our trees are protected against the well known winter and gypsy moth that have become synonymous with Springtime in New England. It is around this time that I start to receive many questions on the matter, and as such I would like to share some information that may answer many of the questions you may have.

Q: What is the difference between winter moth and gypsy moth?

A: Winter and gypsy moth caterpillars differ in several ways, most notably in timing, size and appearance. Winter moths are small, green caterpillars that emerge earlier in the Spring. Gypsy moths are larger, fuzzy caterpillars that are black and often striped. They also appear later in the season. 

Q: When is the ideal time to treat my trees?

A: Treatment of winter and gypsy moth is entirely subject to factors under Mother Nature's Control. Generally speaking, the typical treatment period can begin as early as late April, through as late as mid June. Factors that impact timing of treatment include the general weather, rain, temperature, amount and direction of wind, as well as how far the trees have leafed out. Not all areas in our state will leaf out simultaneously; Similarly, not all trees leaf out at the same time. We can typically expect the coastal areas, as well as areas of Western Rhode Island to leaf out a little later than more central areas in the state. In addition, properties that are known to have issues with both species of moths may require a second application.


Q: My tree has not yet been sprayed, and it looks like there is already damage. Is it too late?

A: This may be one of the most common concerns that we hear. It is important to note that when your trees first begin to leaf out, you may see some very preliminary caterpillar damage. This feeding occurs within the buds by premature caterpillars. During this time, the caterpillars cannot be reached by treatment sprays. As such, we ask that you keep this in mind before assuming that it is an emergency. If you feel as though you are seeing extensive damage, certainly let us know, however it is unlikely during the beginning of the bloom.


Q: Will I have an appointment?

A: No. Due to how fluid and unpredicatable the Spring time weather is, we cannot possibly schedule our sprayings. Many decisions need to be made in field based upon the current conditions. I divide our winter moth clientele into geographical areas, and will notify the clients in each area of a general idea of when they may be able to expect treatment to occur. Again, these time frames are fluid and not to be relied upon as any hard date.


Q: Are the products being used safe?

A: Yes - TF Morra Tree Care prides itself on upholding standards that promote the overall wellfare of our ecosystem. As such, we use products that adhere to these standards. Should you have any questions regarding our products, please feel free to let me know. Tom or I would be happy to answer them and provide you with literature about them.


Q: Do all of my trees need to be sprayed?

A: Not necessarily. We typically address the species that are hosts of winter and gypsy moth caterpillars, and occasionally others they may turn to. 


Q: What if it rains soon after my property has been treated?

A: Generally this in not an issue. The products have a surfactant property and are locally systemic - absorbing within 30 - 60 minutes of application.


Q: Do I need to avoid my yard after the trees have been sprayed?

A: You may notice an aroma to the spray, but you certainly do not need to avoid your yard. For that day, I would just not allow children or pets to touch or lick the trees - they probably won't taste too good! 


Q: How can I make sure that my property will be treated next year as well?

A: Due to the fact that winter and gypsy moth are an annual issue, as well as the popularity of the program, if you have been treated before, you are automatically enrolled in treatment each year. We operate this program on an opt-out basis; we will continue to treat until you tell us not to. This offers our clients the protection of knowing that the property will be accounted for when we plan to spray each season.


Planning for winter and gypsy moth treatment occurs long before they actually appear. You do not want to wait until you see caterpillars to act - call us for a quote today!


Stephanie Smolenski



Protecting evergreens against winter injury... Again!

Once again, we've had extreme weather that has had adverse effects on the landscape. Last winter was way above average temperature-wise, and we had a couple seriously hard frosts in February and again in April. Warm winter temperatures allow evergreen trees to continue to transpire, using up all of the available moisture in the soil and root system. Then when the temperature drops, the plants don't have enough moisture in their foliage to withstand the hard frost. They will also sometimes just automatically shed some of their foliage as a reaction to inadequate soil moisture.

Compound that with the intense heat and prolonged drought conditions that we had this summer, and the results are stressful and damaging. The added stress of these conditions can also make plants more susceptible to other insect and disease problems. We received dozens if not scores of calls about browning foliage and interior shedding of leaves or needles this year, and most of the time, this was the issue.

In addition to watering your trees and shrubs well in the fall, one step that can be taken is spray treatment with anti-transpirant, also called anti-desiccant. The products we use (Nu-Arbor, Vapor Guard and others) create a waxy coating that effectively prevent loss of moisture from leaves and needles.

Contact us today for an assessment or to schedule your application. We apply anti-transpirant right through December, or as long as temps are above 40F.  Treatment will provide protection all winter long!

Warm winter, wild and wacky spring!

As we move from a record setting warm winter into a tumultuous spring, there a lots of curveballs happening in nature right now! A couple to focus on for your landscape are winter injury to sensitive evergreens and how the weather has affected tree and landscape pests. The warm temps over the winter kept many evergreen plants moving water when that process should have been slowed or even stopped at times. The result is excessive transpiration leading to desiccation (drying out), and this leads to winter injury. Bamboo and boxwood are two that took it the worst. Be sure to water these plants, and an organic fertilizer is also not a bad idea!

The warm winter has mixed effects on tree and landscape pests, but many such as hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA) and wood/deer ticks tend to thrive without the harder frosts. As of today, most winter moth larvae have hatched, but yesterday's storm and tonight's record low temps will kill any that have not made it into open buds, so that's great news! The bad news is that for fruit trees, tonight's record lows may kill any opened flower buds which could hurt fruit production. We will be starting tick control, soil injections for winter moth and fertilization in the next few days, and spraying should begin next week. Check back for updates as the season progresses!

Protecting your evergreens against winter injury

With all of the radical changes in weather the last few years, evergreen trees and shrubs have had to withstand many difficult conditions, and the problems have compounded. Summer heat and drought, and fluctuating winter air temperatures with solidly frozen soil have led to much higher than normal rates of winter injury and undue stress on evergreens. you may have noticed excessive needle drop and browning in needle leaved evergreens, and yellowing and dieback in broadleaf evergreens.

In addition to watering your trees and shrubs well in the fall, one step that can be taken is spray treatment with anti-transpirant, also called anti-desiccant. The products we use (Nu-Arbor, Vapor Guard and others) create a waxy coating that effectively prevents loss of moisture from leaves and needles. This happens when soil is frozen, preventing movement of water, but air temperatures fluctuate, allowing valuable moisture to be released.

Contact us today for an assessment or to schedule your application. We apply anti-transpirant right through December, as long as temps are above 40F.  Treatment will provide protection all winter long!

Quick- get the spray! It's Winter Moth!

Here in the great state of Rhode Island, an invasive species from Europe known as Operophtera brumata, or Winter Moth, likely laid waste to the leaves of one or more trees on your property this past spring/summer.

Winter Moth caterpillars are the culprits. Tiny and green, they emerge from their eggs in the bark of trees in springtime, cast out thin strands of silk and swing up in the canopy or drop onto shrubs to eat, eat, EAT.  Maple, oak, ash, crabapple, among others are common RI host species. Many trees can recover and put out a second leaf, but too many years of Winter Moth and your property will be visibly compromised. The feast ends in the summer, they drop to the soil to pupate.

Luckily, they can be controlled with one of two different products. Spinosad is an organic product derived from a unique form of bacteria that affects the nervous system of target insects, and has virtually no non-target effects. We also use Acelepryn, which is a super low toxicity insecticide--which we and the honeybees both like! 

In the next two months, we will see the adult moths emerge- hence the name Winter Moth. This is a great time for us to come by, give you a quote, and get you on the Winter Moth Spray list for Spring 2016. 

Contact us today!

Learn more about Winter Moth