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“Nights with White Satin" Moths

by Contributor March 23, 2017


Periodically, agriculture and forestry experts in Nevada, Utah and California express concerns about potential infestations of the small, hauntingly beautiful White Satin Moth (Leucoma salicis) that can destroy entire groves of aspen, cottonwood and willow trees, especially in mountainous areas. 

The last serious outbreak was in 2013, but certain climatic and environmental conditions favorable to these moths can initiate a new infestation. After the 2013 outbreak, experts studied the moths near Lake Tahoe and found signs that natural predators of the moth were making a rebound and have helped keep the invaders in check.

The white satin moth is related to the infamous gypsy moth which seriously damaged forests in the northeastern U.S. and Upper Midwest.  It is found across most of the northern half of North America and likely arrived from Europe in the 1920s.

Don’t be misled by the ethereal appearance of the white satin moth – they can be lethal. What was once an aspen grove full of green, lush leaves can become a glut of bare branches – and the culprit is this moth.


The white satin moth hibernates during the winter months and in the spring the larvae are very active when they start feeding on leaves. Left unimpeded, they will ravage plants – with aspens, willows and cottonwood trees as their preferred food choice. Homeowners should watch the moth closely, especially in the spring, when defoliation begins to appear and the trees can be treated. They are difficult to control once an infestation is well underway, however, natural predators such as birds and wasps can help ameliorate the problem.

To help keep your trees, lawn, and yard healthy throughout the year, it’s important to schedule an on-site consultation with one of Arborist Now’s certified arborists, especially if you suspect a problem. We are here to help you to care for your poplar, willow, and oak trees against the White Satin Moth and other predators.

The problem is that while a healthy tree can withstand one or even two satin moth attacks, repeated exposure can cause so much damage that the tree can't recover.

An effective means of combating the problem include high-pressure water washing of the tree. This knocks the larvae and eggs loose. Another option is to apply "sticky bands" to the trunk. This will help trap the caterpillars as they make their way up the tree to feed.

If you find that your tree has been infested, Arborist Now can come out and help with this problem. For more information about our tree services in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area please do not hesitate to contact us.

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