Spongy Moth Facts

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Smriti Chaudhary
Spongy moth facts are all about a unique moth of the Erebidae family.

The spongy moth belonging to the family Erebidae can be broadly classified into three subspecies namely, the Japanese spongy moth (LDJ), the Asian spongy moth (LDA), and the European spongy moth (LDD). They have a Eurasian origin.

Their host trees mainly include Alber broadleaf, oak, poplar, and basswood tree. In the larvae and caterpillar stages, they usually live in colonies. The European spongy moth cannot fly despite having wings.

They are seasonal breeders and both the parents die shortly after reproduction. The females lay around 1000 eggs on the host tree.

Their lifecycle consists of four stages namely eggs, larva or caterpillar, pupae, and adult. The conservation status of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) has not been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN Red List.

They cause defoliation of leaves of trees and cause damage to forest habitat. They are widely regarded as pests and measures are taken to curb the growth of spongy moth populations.

Gypsy Moth Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spongy moth?

The spongy moth is an insect belonging to the family Erebidae.

What class of animal does a spongy moth belong to?

The spongy moth belongs to the class Insecta. The scientific name of this species is Lymantria dispar.

How many spongy moths are there in the world?

The exact number of spongy moths present in the world is not known. The Erebidae family is one of the largest families of moths in terms of the count of species.

Where does a spongy moth live?

They are found in Northern parts of Africa, Southern parts of Europe, North America including the United States and Canada, and parts of Asia including Japan. The European spongy moths range from Portugal to the Ural mountains.

In the United States, they reside in Illinois, Maryland, New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. Asian spongy moths are found in China, Korea, and parts of Japan. Japanese spongy moths mainly inhabit the islands in Japan.

What is a spongy moth's habitat?

They mostly inhabit forests located in the temperate zone. These forests are dominated by deciduous trees which shed their leaves in the fall and are characterized by high levels of humidity and precipitation. Their preferred host trees include oak trees, poplar trees, basswood trees, and Alber broadleaf trees.

They are also found in the adjacent urban and sub-urban areas. Temperature is an important factor for their survival and high temperature facilitates their growth. They cannot withstand very low temperatures.

Who do spongy moths live with?

They live in groups known as colonies. Spongy moth colonies either feed on the host tree or fly together in search of a new forest.

How long does a spongy moth live?

The spongy moth has a lifespan of approximately 2 weeks, where the adult moths live for mating and reproduction and die shortly.

How do they reproduce?

They usually breed once a year being seasonal breeders. Their breeding season is mainly in July or August. Both the male and female attain reproductive maturity at 11 months of age.

Here males are polygamous and have more than one partner while females have only one partner throughout their life. The female moth releases a sex hormone from their abdominal glands called pheromone. This helps in attracting mates during breeding.

Mating usually lasts for half an hour. Around 600-1000 eggs are laid by the female within 24 hours of mating.

Eggs are usually kept on nests built on the branches and tree trunks. The larvae don't hatch before eight to nine months. Parental care is absent in this species as both the parents die shortly after mating and reproduction.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the spongy moth (Lymantria dispar) has not been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN Red List. Destruction of habitat and climate change are some threats encountered by them.

Gypsy Moth Fun Facts

What do spongy moths look like?

Adults are usually 0.6-1.4 in (1.5-3.5 cm) in length and their wings range from 1.5-2.4 in (3.8-6.0 cm) in length. The antennae of the male have a feathery structure in contrast to the thread-like structure in the female.

The wings of the males are brown in color with black bands. Females are larger than males. Spongy moths are usually hairy and black during the early caterpillar stage.

With time, they start developing pairs of blue dots followed by pairs of red dots on their back. Each red or blue spots have brown or yellow hair coming out of it.

How cute are they?

Their cuteness usually stems from their patterned and feathery appearance. They have brown wings with black stripes. Spongy moth caterpillar contains red and blue dots on its body.

How do they communicate?

They use their wings and antennae to perceive tactile responses from the surroundings. The young larvae can sense light from the sun and climbs up to the canopies of the tree. Female releases pheromone called disparlure to attract the male during mating.

How big is a gypsy moth?

They are almost 0.6-1.4 in (1.5-3.5 cm) in length. They are almost twice the size of micronoctuini that are 0.3 in (0.75 cm) long, another species of the Erebidae family.

How fast can spongy moths fly?

Not much is known about the speed of their flight. Asian spongy moths cover long distances in their flight. However, not all subspecies can fly namely the European spongy moth.

How much does a spongy moth weigh?

The weight of the male larvae is 0.02 oz (0.64 g) while that of the female is 0.07 oz (2 g). The weight of the male pupae is 0.01 oz (0.5 g) and that of the female is 0.05 oz ( 1.5 g). They are generally small than butterflies.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Scientists do not have specific names to denote male and female spongy moths.

What would you call a baby spongy moth?

A baby spongy moth is known as a tussock moth. They are named so because the body of the larvae contains a tuft of hair.

What do they eat?

They eat leaves from a variety of coniferous and hardwood trees. The host trees they usually feed on include oaks, poplar, and Alber broadleaf tree.

The older larvae feed during the night while the younger larvae feed in the daytime. The spongy moth caterpillar has a huge appetite and is capable of large-scale defoliation of plants. The adults do not eat.

Are they dangerous?

They aren't dangerous but the uncontrolled spongy moth damage forest habitats. The larvae feed on a variety of trees, plants, and shrubs. It causes defoliation of trees.

Defoliated trees are susceptible to a variety of other pests and diseases. In many cases, the trees die leaving the arboreal birds exposed to predation.

It is recommended to spray the host trees with insecticides when they are still in their caterpillar stage. Egg masses can be removed by brushing them off the trees as spraying doesn't cause any effect on the pupae or the egg. This is how spongy moths can be killed.

Would they make a good pet?

They might be kept as pets but their population has to be kept in check. They can positively impact humans by removing the unwanted growth of plants or trees in houses.

Did you know...

The European spongy moth was accidentally leaked in the year 1869 to the United States. A French entomologist, Léopold Trouvelet wanted to perform some experiments with this species. He thought of inter-breeding silkworms with spongy moths for silkworm production. However, the moths accidentally escaped from his residence and spread to the entire country.

Can a spongy moth hurt you?

Yes, the spongy moth might hurt humans. The larvae contain a tiny hair-like structure on their body which contains poison ivy. Irritation or rash can occur if it comes in contact with human skin. This is called spongy moth rash. This is why they are harmful to humans.

Why is it called a spongy moth?

The name spongy moth is coined from the translation of French. As the former name 'gypsy moth' was an ethnic slur for Roma people, it was formally changed to 'spongy moth'. The name is based on destructive forest pest having sponge-like appearance.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Smriti Chaudhary

Bachelor of Technology specializing in Information Technology

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Smriti ChaudharyBachelor of Technology specializing in Information Technology

Smriti, a student data scientist, and coder, is pursuing her Bachelor of Technology at K.J. Somaiya College of Engineering. She has achieved top rankings in the International English Olympiad, National Spelling Bee, and PSAT/SAT English Section. She is experienced in content creation and editing for various academic institutions.

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