How to Protect Your Trees from the Gypsy Moth in Ontario (2021 Edition)

The Gypsy Moth in Ontario is wreaking havoc throughout Ontario and Southern Canada. 

The infamous European gypsy moth caused nearly 590,000 hectares of defoliation in Ontario last year and is on track to cause significant damage in 2021. 

Where do Gypsy Moths Come From? 

Originating from Europe, gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar dispar or LDD moth) were introduced to North America in 1869 for possible silk production and are now a well-established invasive species decimating trees and forests across Southern Canada and the Eastern US.

Gypsy Moths arrived in Ontario around 50 years ago and haven’t left. 

Once established, the gypsy moth population fluctuates widely from year to year. Each population varies annually and fluctuates with local conditions. Years of inactivity can follow seasons with high numbers of caterpillars and heavy damage.

What Areas do They Affect?

Out of all of the stages of life, the gypsy moth caterpillar stage is arguably the worst; this is the only stage that the gypsy moth feeds. These hairy caterpillars have few natural predators and can coat a tree trunk and canopy so thick you can hear them. 

The gypsy moth caterpillar infests trees in woodland or suburban areas and prefers to defoliate particular species of trees, such as oak, poplar, willow, birch, and sugar maple. But, during outbreak years, the caterpillars may completely defoliate nearly any broadleaf tree. 

Impact of the Gypsy Moth in Ontario

As previously mentioned, the impact of gypsy moths change from year to year, and last year was a particularly rough year for Ontario; the area of trees completely decimated by gypsy moths was about the size of Prince Edward Island

Not only do gypsy moths affect our trees, but the hairs on their legs can also cause an allergic reaction in some people. Therefore, it is strongly advised to use caution when visiting or hiking in parks this summer. 

Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on approximately 500 different plants. Depending on population and age, caterpillars can chew small holes or completely strip the tree of all leaves. 

Older caterpillars sometimes eat certain species of hardwood that younger caterpillars generally avoid. But, interestingly, when food is scarce, the caterpillars will feed on almost any vegetation.  

Methods to Combat Gypsy Moths

photo of a gypsy moth during the infestation of gypsy moth in ontario

Keeping your trees healthy is key to them surviving gypsy moth infestations. Healthy trees are better able to ward off attacks.

Similar to other tree pests, the gypsy moth will defoliate an injured or stressed tree first. Stressed trees often have wounds or deep crevices in the bark that provide the egg mass and larvae with a shelter that aids in their survival. 

Preventative tips to reduce gypsy moth infestation in urban areas include:

  • Water trees during droughts
  • Protect the tree’s root zone
  • Place mulch around the base of the tree to increase soil moisture
  • Fertilize trees at appropriate times
  • Avoid injuring trees with lawnmowers or other damaging objects 

Preventative measures are no longer helpful once your tree has been affected by gypsy moths. Instead, homeowners can try methods such as:

Burlap Sacks

Placing a burlap band at chest level around the tree trunk, especially oaks, will catch caterpillars when they climb up and down the tree, looking for shade. This method also provides an easy way to monitor the gypsy moth population of your trees and yard. 

To make a burlap band, wrap and tie a strip of burlap about 30 cm wide around the trunk of the tree. The caterpillars come down the trunk to find shade during the daytime and get trapped in the burlap band. 

Check the burlap at least one to two times a day, pick off the caterpillars, and throw them into soapy water. When numbers are low, you can crush the larvae under the burlap. 

Sticky Substances

Another method to fight a gypsy moth outbreak is to wrap your tree in a sticky substance, like duct tape, to trap the caterpillars. Caterpillars crawling up the tree will get trapped in the sticky material and die. 

Make a band using duct tape and waterproof sticky material, such as petroleum jelly or Tanglefoot. 

Make sure the bark is dry before wrapping the duct tape around the tree. Then, press the tape firmly into the bark cracks and grooves to prevent caterpillars from sneaking past your tape. 

Just like the burlap sack, wrap the tape around chest height. Once the tape is placed, smear the sticky material around the center of the band of tape. If you apply the sticky substances directly to the tree bark, you can potentially disfigure or kill the tree you are trying to protect. 

Periodically check the tape band to ensure it has not become clogged with larvae, insects, dirt, or debris. Apply sticky material as needed, especially after it has rained. 

You can take the barrier bands down around late July after the gypsy moth caterpillars have pupated.

Is Your Tree Dead?

Even though it may look like your tree is dead, that is not always the case. While the damage caused by the gypsy moth may be ugly, it doesn’t make sense for them to kill their hosts. If they eat everything up, the next generation won’t survive- this is why gypsy moths go through cycles of abundance and decline. 

It takes several years of severe defoliation to kill a tree unless the tree has already been affected by other factors such as drought, disease, and poor growing conditions.  

Most trees will actually produce a second set of leaf buds- usually by late July. The second set of leaves provides enough energy for the tree to successfully survive winter. 

Gypsy moth caterpillars seldom feed on conifers such as spruce, pine, fir, and Douglas fir unless levels of gypsy moths are high and the leaves on their preferred hosts have already been eaten.

Unlike deciduous trees, conifer trees have a much higher risk of dying when they are severely defoliated. This is because conifer trees produce buds in late summer and cannot create new leaf buds in time if they are defoliated.

How Nature’s Shade Can Help You Protect Your Trees and Yard

At Nature’s Shade, we can help keep your trees healthy and stable and take measures to protect them from the invasive gypsy moth. 

Let us help you by pruning and removing dead branches and stumps from your property where the adult female moths are most likely to lay their egg mass. You can also turn any leftover debris into woodchips to use for mulch to protect your tree from next year’s infestations and increase soil moisture. 

If your tree has died or the damage is beyond repair, we will work with you to explore all options. Nature’s Shade Tree Care professionals are trained in all things tree removal and will be there to help you from start to finish.

Give us a call today and request a FREE quote.


7 Best Trees to Plant in Toronto

Did you know one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people? And during one year, a mature tree will absorb more than 22 kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen for us to breathe.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a good reason to plant a tree for us. In case you need just a couple more reasons to find out which are the best trees to plant in Toronto, keep reading below: 

  • Trees can cool a city by up to 10°C by shading our homes and streets and releasing water vapours into the air through evaporation on their leaves.
  • They contribute positively to the natural environment while reducing the carbon footprint.
  • Trees provide essential wildlife habitats. 
  • Office workers with a view of trees report significantly less stress and more job satisfaction. 
  • Trees beautify the property on which they are planted.
  • Homeowners with robust trees stand to increase the valuation of their property.
  • Tree planting can also be an important community-building activity, bringing neighbours and friends together.
  • Children learn the importance of preserving nature and forming a bond with the outdoors when they take part in planting trees themselves and watch them grow. 

These are only a few of the wonderful advantages of planting trees in your yard. Read on to find out the best trees to plant in your backyard and experience the benefits for yourself. 

How to decide which are the best trees to plant in Toronto?

There is a lot to consider before purchasing and planting a tree on your property. Here are some important questions every homeowner should ask themselves before choosing a tree:

  • Do you want the tree to provide shade? 
  • Do you want a fruit tree, ornamental tree, or will any tree do?
  • Will your fruit tree be included in your garden? 
  • How much space do you have for the tree to grow?
  • What are the best trees to grow in the soil in your backyard?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen tree? Will it adapt well to your property?
  • Considering the light conditions of your location, which trees are best suited for your yard?

More often than not, homeowners cannot reach a suitable answer by themselves and need help coming to a final decision. Testing the soil, checking the space, and pairing it with the best trees requires professional tree service for the best results. That’s when owners contact a local tree arborist to assist them in finding and planting the perfect tree for every yard. 

The best and most popular trees for your Toronto backyard

one of the best trees to plant in toronto next to a church

Quite a few native trees grow well in the Toronto climate, but choosing the best tree depends on the key factors we have previously mentioned. Speaking from our years of professional experience as tree doctors, we have compiled a list of the seven best trees for Toronto homeowners to plant in their backyard. 

The listed trees are by no means an exhaustive catalogue- to learn more about the best trees to plant near your home, take a look at this list of native trees in Toronto. 

White Oak

If you want your tree to provide shade, look no further than the white oak. They reach a behemoth height of about 30 meters and easily towers over your household. Planting oak trees near your home is an excellent idea because the robust roots grow deep and can easily live up to 400 years. The heavy branches grow very close to the ground and may sometimes interfere with your property-practice regular pruning to keep the tree tidy and prevent damage to your house or surrounding buildings. 

American Beech

If you are looking to bring a little joy and life into your garden, the American beech trees are a great addition to consider. They grow up to 5-10 meters and provide partial shade to your property. The decorative trees and edible beechnuts will also frequently invite squirrels, birds, and tiny insects to your property and provide a natural sanctuary for the wildlife habitat. 

The American Beech is a blue barked tree with a beautiful oval leaf. They need to be tended to while seeding and only grow into a full-bodied tree in nutrient and moisture-rich soil. 

Blue Beech

The Blue Beech thrives in moist soil, grows up to 22 meters, and gives shade to the property on which it grows. The smooth grey bark of this short tree grows harmoniously alongside the longer oaks, pine, and maples. Don’t be misled by its name, though; they don’t belong to the beech family. Even so, they are one of the best trees for your backyard. 


The sycamores are one of the best shade trees to include on your property. In well-fertilized and moist soil, they tend to grow up to 30 meters and develop dense foliage. They are one of the best trees to plant in your backyard, but make sure you have adequate space to let them spread out. This deciduous tree sheds leaves heavily and constantly during fall, making for more than one mandatory leaf clean-up. 

Sugar Maple

The Sugar Maple tree produces the majestic maple leaf, Canada’s national emblem. Needless to say, the Sugar Maple is one of the best trees to include in your backyard for community purposes. Come fall, the thick foliage displays the vibrant fall colours gloriously. They enhance the beauty of your property, provide shade, grow well in all kinds of soil, and are very easy to maintain in colder climates. However, the population of this tree is declining. Planters are choosing to focus on species that fare better industrially. Help the Sugar Maple thrive again and add one to your property today! 

Kentucky Coffeetree

This native plant of Toronto is also one of the most unique types of trees to consider. Its narrow frame and controlled branching make it an ideal tree to include in a garden, urban forest, or limited spaces. The tree grows very well in any kind of soil, adaptive to various climates, and drought-resistant. The Kentucky Coffeetree is a threatened species in Ontario today, making a solid reason for you to plant this tree often and re-populate it in your backyard.

White Pine

The evergreen white pine grows to its fullest form in wide spaces and adapts to a wide range of soils. It is generally a tough tree, resistant even to fire, but often falls prey to tree-killing fungus. 

White Pines almost always stand out in a larger group, owing to their height and beauty. It is a  low-maintenance tree that provides shelters to squirrels, birds, and other local wildlife. 

Now that you know seven of the best trees to plant in Toronto, you can narrow down your favourites. Local tree professionals will carefully analyze all of your needs and recommend the best trees for your property. Call Nature’s Shade for professional help choosing and planting your next tree today!

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