ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Entomological Society of America (ESA) has renamed the insect we commonly refer to as a “gypsy moth” or Lymantria dispar. The “spongy moth” is now the approved name for the species on ESA’s insects and related organisms lists.
In July 2021, the ESA removed the old name from the list over its potential slur. Officials said the new moniker—which derives from the common name used in France and French-speaking Canada, “spongieuse”—refers to the moth’s sponge-like egg masses.
Officials said renaming the species not only specifically references an important feature of the moth’s biology for entomologists and foresters, but also moves away from the previous term, which was outdated and potentially offensive.
Native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, the spongy moth is considered an invasive pest in North American forests, where it can defoliate hundreds of tree and shrub species. According to officials, it was introduced in Massachusetts in the 1800s and has spread throughout the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. They cause millions of dollars in damage and mitigation efforts every year. Officials said spongy moth populations primarily spread when their characteristic egg masses are transported on firewood, outdoor equipment, and vehicles.