Monday, April 4, 2022

Arthro-Pod EP 110: The Spongy Moth and Trouvelot's Bad Idea


Last episode, we dove into the reasons why the ESA chose to select a new common name for Lymantria dispar and why we'll be using spongy moth going forward. Today's episode looks further into this species by covering the introduction of spongy moth to North America. This historic event was the result of an idea by entomologist Etienne Leopold Trouvelot. In an attempt to establish an American silk industry, Trouvelot imported this invasive species and sadly lost control of them, ultimately imposing a mighty pest on North America. Join us to hear about what he was thinking, what exactly happened in Medford, MA, and what fate befell Trouvelot and the situation he created. 

Here we can see Trouvelot on the left, in the only known photo of him. Next to him, the spongy moth caterpillar which he unfortunately helped bring to North America. 

Show Notes:

Much of the research for today's episode comes from a book by Robert Spear, "The Great Gypsy Moth War"

Trouvelot may have had a bad idea for his entomology research, but he did garner some renown in the world of astronomy in the second half of his academic life. As we detail in the episode, he was able to command a premium price for his services and artwork and his celestial art still captures attention today. Here's just a few examples: 

Trouvelot's lunar craters

Trouvelot's Jupiter

The Jupiter drawing as it appears in an episode of Star Trek

Trouvelot's Saturn

Questions? Comments? 

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This episode is freely available on and is licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Beginning/ending theme: "There It Is" by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0