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Tussock Moths: The Latest Pest to Invade Oregon and Washington

There are certain events you can expect to happen every 10 years, like the census or milestone anniversaries. In the Pacific Northwest, you can also mark your calendar for a tussock moth outbreak. Washington pest control specialists reported that the moths chewed their way through 1,600 acres of trees in eastern Spokane and 9,000 acres in the Blue Mountains in 2011. This year, Oregon pest control services will also be up to bat as the invasion heads south.

How to Recognize Tussock Moths

Tussock moths are also known as Douglas fir moths. As adults, tussock moths have wings that are medium brown on top and a rust color on the bottom when open. Some moths, however, can display shades of gray or white. One of the most distinguishing features of this moth is its hairy abdomen. The female tussock moth has tufts at the end of the abdomens and is often flightless. Adult tussock moths do not feed.

As any Washington pest control expert can attest, tussock moths are at their most destructive as caterpillars, before the metamorphosis process. The caterpillars have dark bodies with red spots and an orange stripe on either side of the abdomen. The caterpillars have long, light-colored body hair, as well as black tufts at each end of their body. Mature tussock moth caterpillars measure just shy of 1.5 inches in length.

The favorite foods of the tussock moth caterpillar are the varieties of Douglas fir trees found in the Northwest. The young insects don’t discriminate between old and new foliage. While a coniferous tree can usually survive an infestation, repeated defoliation can cause top-kill, stunt growth and make the tree more susceptible to other insect attacks – which is why tussock moths are considered a problem by Washington and Oregon pest control professionals.

Time Frame for Tussock Moth Outbreaks

Tussock moth outbreaks generally last two to four years, as nature takes its course. With time, the native moth population declines as viral diseases and natural enemies increase. Enemies include parasitic wasps and birds.

Indian Meal Moths

While Tussock moths infest your landscaping, homeowners are more likely to encounter Indian meal moths indoors. These types of moths particularly like to infest pantries, as they can gnaw through cardboard boxes and thin plastic wrappers to get to abundant food sources. The best way to prevent an Indian meal moth visit infestation is to never leave food out in the open and to store pantry goods in lidded containers made of glass, metal or plastic.

If you suspect an Indian meal moth infestation, call a Washington or Oregon pest control service. The professionals can identify contaminated or infested food and dispose of it appropriately. Oregon and Washington pest control providers can also inspect your home for cracks and set pheromone traps that are safe to use around your family.


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