Gypsy Moth Outbreak In Bethel: Only A Rumor

May 3, 2016

Moth spotted near Bethel. Photo by KYUK's Mike Martz.

If you’ve been walking through Bethel in the evening or night lately you might have noticed a number of unusual furry moths. There’s rumors that the creatures are an invasive and highly destructive species called the Gypsy Moth. They aren’t. 

The Gypsy Moth has been reported in parts of Alaska in previous years by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. However, if the Gypsy’s are in Alaska, they aren’t in Bethel.

According to Dr. Peter Van Zandt, biology professor at Birmingham-Southern College and moth resea rcher, the suspected Bethel moth does not fit the bill.

Gypsy Moth 2034, Flickr, Creative Commons. Photo by Will George.

Van Zandt says that the main difference between the Bethel moths and the Gypsy’s are that the Bethel moths seem to have much shorter antennae that are less furry than the Gypsy Moth’s.

Don Eggen, Forest Health Manager in Pennsylvania, a state that has been trying to eradicate Gypsy’s for almost 100 years, says that another reason the Bethel moths are not Gypsy’s is because Gypsy’s matures to adulthood in late summer, not early spring like the insects in Bethel.

Moth seen near YKHC in Bethel. Photo by Mike Martz / KYUK.

  The final nail in the myth coffin comes from Dr. Donna Leonard with the USDA Forest Service in North Carolina who’s working to combat the spread of Gypsy Moths. Leonard says the Bethel creatures, who are seen in the evening and night, display different patterns than the Gypsy Moths she works with, who are most active during the day.

While none of these experts could say what the Bethel moths are, they are all in agreement that they are not Gypsy Moths.