How to Check for Spongy Moths Before You Move

New name, same checklist

What used to be known as the gypsy moth — the invasive species Lymantria dispar — is now the spongy moth. The Entomological Society of America (ESOA) chose the name as part of their Better Common Names Project because of the moth’s spongy-looking egg masses. And those egg masses are precisely what you need to check for before moving to prevent the spread of the pest. Learn more about the issues they cause, determine if your move requires an Insect Inspection Checklist, and find out how to look for them.

The problem with spongy moths

These little critters may be small, but they have the potential to cause extensive damage to hardwood trees. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, they can eat up to one square foot of leaves per day, quickly destroying an entire forest. So laws were put into place to keep the moths from being transported, hopefully protecting national parks and other important vegetation. If you’re moving from an area with the insects, you may be required to complete a checklist ensuring you’ve looked over any outdoor items and found them to be pest-free.

Find out if you’re moving from a spongy moth quarantine area

Currently, the United States Department of Agriculture has identified the spongy moth (which they still call the European gypsy moth) in 19 states. To contain the insects to those areas and prevent spreading, the USDA has placed those spots under quarantine.

Those states under quarantine are:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Because the area could be spreading, it’s essential to use the USDA’s map to see if your location is currently affected.

Suppose you’re moving from an area where the pest is found, or through an area where they’re trying to prevent it from invading (Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington). In that case, you’ll have to complete an Insect Inspection Checklist. You may also get this form if you’re moving from an area with other invasive species, like the spotted lanternfly.

Filling out the checklist

If you’re moving with U-Pack®, we’ll send you a link to the Insect Inspection Checklist (if it applies to your move). You can also access the document online by entering your reservation number. To fill it out, select each outdoor item you’re moving off the list as you inspect and clean it. If you don’t have any outdoor items, click “Next” through the checklist and leave everything blank.

It’s also important to note items on the list that are marked Drain Fluids must have flammable liquids emptied before loading. It’s also a great time to review the Do Not Ship list and set aside anything you can’t place in the equipment.

When you’re finished filling out the form, submit it online — ideally at least five business days before your move date. U-Pack will file the document on your behalf.

Note: If you’re moving on shorter notice, talk with your U-Pack consultant about the timeline of completing the inspection.

How to look for insects and eggs

To comply with the law, you must thoroughly inspect all outdoor items you’re planning to move into or through the areas mentioned above (before loading them into the moving truck or container). This includes (but is not limited to) things like patio furniture, camping items, tools, lawn equipment, sports equipment, etc. Only items stored outdoors or in outbuildings need to be checked as you’re packing for the move.

You’ll be looking for moths, caterpillars and egg masses.

The female moths are white with black or brown V shape markings, and the egg masses are brown and appear sponge-like.

Three female spongy moths, white with dark V-shaped markings, lay brown egg masses on the bark of a tree.


The males are mottled brown and gray with feathery antennae.

A male spongy moth, mottled brown with feathery antennae, sitting on a green leaf.


The caterpillars have large dark eye spots with blue dots right behind their head, followed by six pairs of raised red dots along their back.

A spongy moth caterpillar with red spots crawls on a leaf.


What to do if you find spongy moths on your stuff

You must remove and destroy any bugs or eggs. To remove the egg masses, use a putty knife or steel brush to scrape them off. Then to do away with them, place the eggs in a container of hot, soapy water or seal them in a plastic bag and set it in the sun.

Need help?

If you have questions about filling out your Insect Inspection Checklist or need assistance with your move, leave us a comment or call us at 844-362-5303844-594-3077.

To learn more about the renaming of the gypsy moth to the spongy moth, read this article from the ESOA.

Find out about other plant protections and quarantine programs from the USDA.