Written By Kris Brown.
Posted on July 27th, 2021.
Can you name the exotic insect pest responsible for this egg mass? The egg mass was found in August 2020 on the bark of a red oak tree in Albany County, NY.
On a Friday evening in early August 2020, my wife Jess and I drove out to Greenville, NY to watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian at the drive-in, which was a fantastic way to spend the evening. Rather than drive the 1.5 hours back to Oneonta and risk hitting a deer at midnight, we booked a night in a tipi at the Magic Forest Farm Garden in nearby Coeyman’s Hollow. We immediately made a friend at the campsite.
Our campground “host”, gnawing on some red oak foliage. Notice the chunky bark of the chestnut oaks in the background.
We were also taken by the beautiful view out in front of the tipi, which was made possible by a strip cut going down the hillslope. We were definitely on an oak ridge. I saw chestnut oaks, red oaks, and a few white oaks.
The view from our oak ridge campsite.
Our tipi accommodation.
In the morning, we checked out the garden and the woods trails. We noticed that a handful of the red oaks had brown fuzzy patches on their bark, about eye-level in height. “Spongey moth egg mass,” said Jess. From 2012-2014, Jess was the Virginia State Spongey Moth Survey Coordinator before we moved abroad. One aspect of her job was working with pheromone-laced confetti that made it nearly impossible for male moths to find a mate. When gypsy moth populations aren’t too dense, this method works to slow the spread because to the male moths, the hot females are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Most of them end up dying without finding a mate. To this day, male moths still occasionally flutter around Jess. Yeah, it’s fascinating and a bit weird.
Spongey moth egg mass, likely deposited just before we arrived at camp.
I spent a few moments enjoying the soft, felt-like texture of the egg mass. The next step was obviously to tear it open (they are invasive oak tree defoliators after all) and roll the eggs around in my palm.
Each egg mass contains 600-700 eggs.
I learned from this NYS Department of Environmental Conservation page that the egg masses are deposited in the summer and the caterpillars emerge in the spring to begin munching on oak leaves. Fortunately, we only found a handful of egg masses amongst the plethora of oaks at the Magic Forest Farm Garden.
If you find these egg masses on your oaks, go ahead and squish ‘em! You can also destroy the egg masses by scraping them off and dropping them in a container of detergent.