Spongy Moths: A Household Move Hazard

If you are organizing a household move, you need to beware of an outbreak of a returning outdoor pest that can seriously threaten hardwood trees if you aren’t careful—the spongy moth and its eggs.

These pesky insects are one of the most destructive tree and shrub pests ever introduced into the United States. The spongy moth has defoliated millions of trees, particularly in the Northeast, but is now spreading to more areas of the country.

Previously known as gypsy moths, this species was recently renamed the spongy moth by the Entomological Society of America (ESOA) for their egg masses, which look like sponges. If you aren’t extra careful, you can accidentally transport these pests to your new area when you relocate if you don’t inspect your outdoor belongings before you move.

Spongy moths can defoliate trees quickly and extensively and pose a significant threat to hardwood trees like oak and birch. Therefore, it’s essential to learn about spongy moths, their eggs, how to spot them, and how to manage them so that you don’t risk transporting them from your old home to your new one. In addition, since the eggs can cling to your outdoor furniture, vehicles, equipment, etc., you must learn how to handle them and remove them before loading your moving truck. 

Dealing With Spongy Moths

These moths deposit their eggs in the summer, and the larvae emerge the following spring.

Before loading them into your moving truck or container, you must thoroughly inspect all the outdoor items you plan to move. Pay particular attention to your patio furniture, camping equipment, lawn equipment, grill, bicycles, and other sports equipment like soccer nets. 

Also, check for spongy moths in all their stages, from egg to adult. Here are some things to help:

  • Egg-mass appears sponge-like.
  • Caterpillars have large dark eye spots, blue dots behind their heads, and six pairs of raised red dots along their backs.
  • Female moths are white and have black or brown V-shape designations, and the egg masses are brown and appear sponge-like.
  • Male moths are mottled brown and gray with feathery antennae.

Remove and destroy any bugs or eggs from your belongings. Use a putty knife or stiff brush to scrape them off surfaces. Then place the eggs in a container of hot, soapy water. Or, you can seal them in a plastic bag and then put them in the sun.

Before you move, you must remove all life stages of this destructive spongy moth. In addition, you want to protect your new neighborhood from this invasive pest since it has the potential to attack 300 different kinds of trees and shrubs.

Create your own checklist of items you need to inspect on moving day, or for your convenience, visit and use the USDA’s pre-prepared spongy moth checklist.