Image Text: Also known as the gypsy moth, this pest consumes the leaves of over 500 species of trees, shrubs, and plants. One of the most destructive pests of hardwood trees in the eastern United States, this invasive species was originally brought to the US in the late 19th century as part of an attempt to start a silk operation. The moths were accidentally released in Massachusetts and have subsequently spread through the entire northeast and parts of the midwest through the remainder of the 20th century. The larvae spin silken threads and hang from them, using the blowing wind to spread naturally. The tree defoliation caused by the spongy moth can lead to severe tree mortality after two or more years. Dead trees also grow the risk for wildfires, which destroy hundreds of arboreal acres every year.