USDA Forest Service
 

Gypsy Moth In North America

 
 

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United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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E. Leopold Trouvelot, Perpetrator of our Problem

Etienne Leopold Trouvelot was born on Dec. 26, 1827 in Aisne, France. He fled France during the coup d'etat in 1852 and settled in Medford, Massachusetts, a working-class suburb of Boston. He lived with his wife and family in his house at 27 Myrtle St. in Medford.
Trouvelot made a living as an artist, painting mostly portraits, but he had an amateur interest in entomology. His main interest was in identifying native silkworms that might be used for silk production. (L. Trouvelot(1867) The American Silk Worm. American Naturalist, Vol. 1, No. 1., pp.30-38) The exact reasons or circumstances are unknown, but in the late 1860's he returned from a trip to France with some gypsy moth egg masses. He was apparently culturing them on trees in back of his house when some of the larvae escaped. Trouvelot understood the potential magnitude of this accident and notified local entomologists but no action was taken.

After this accident, Trouvelot apparently lost interest in entomology and became interested in Astronomy. He became famous for his illustrations of astronomical details of the sun and of Venus and was eventually given a faculty position at Harvard University in Astronomy. A crater on the moon was named in honor of Trouvelot and he won the French Academy's Valz prize for his astronomical research.

In 1882 Trouvelot returned to live in France; the timing of this move coincided with the appearance of the first gypsy moth outbreak on his street. Trouvelot Died in 1895.

As the outbreak on Trouvelot's street continued to grow in size, residents of the Boston area became increasingly alarmed about the gypsy moth problem. In 1889 the Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture began a campaign to eradicate the gypsy moth. The methods used during the program ranged from manual removal of egg masses, burning infested forests and application of primitive insecticides. Despite the expenditure of considerable money and effort, the gypsy moth infestation continued to expand in size and by 1900 the effort to eradicate this insect was abandoned.

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Last modified 10/29/03 by Sandy Liebhold .

USDA Forest Service - Northeastern Research Station
Last Modified: Friday, 22 August 2003 at 17:48:24 EDT


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