Skip to main content


Log in

Socio-environmental drivers of establishment of Lymantria dispar, a nonnative forest pest, in the United States

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Biological Invasions Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Geographical variation in the likelihood of biological invasions can be affected by propagule pressure and habitat suitability, which are driven by ecological and social processes. Past studies have empirically quantified the role of drivers by comparing geographical variation in numbers of invading species with variation in candidate factors; however, lack of data has limited empirical studies for individual species. Lymantria dispar (L.), a nonnative forest pest formerly known as gypsy moth, is an exemplar species for exploring invasion drivers because of extensive records on its spread. Since its establishment in eastern United States in 1869, it has been repeatedly introduced into outlying areas, prompting 325 eradication programs from 1972 to 2014. We used these eradication programs as proxies for new establishment events, with the assumption that populations would have established in the absence of eradication treatments. These proxy events were used to quantify the effects of socio-environmental factors on the probability of L. dispar arrival and establishment. Establishment probability was significantly affected by propagule pressure (distance to the previously invaded area, human population size, and the area of source outbreaks) and habitat suitability (climate and availability of host trees). The statistical model developed here can be used to predict invasions and inform surveillance strategies to more efficiently manage these invasions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

The dataset analyzed during the current study is provided as Supplementary File 3.


  • Allison P (2012) Logistic regression for rare events. Stat Horizons. Accessed 21 May 2019

  • Andresen JA, McCullough DG, Potter BE, Koller CN, Bauer LS, Lusch DP, Ramm CW (2001) Effects of winter temperatures on gypsy moth egg masses in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Agric Meteorol 110(2):85–100

    Google Scholar 

  • Baxter PW, Possingham HP (2011) Optimizing search strategies for invasive pests: learn before you leap. J Appl Ecol 48(1):86–95

    Google Scholar 

  • Bigsby KM, Tobin PC, Sills EO (2011) Anthropogenic drivers of gypsy moth spread. Biol Invas 13(9):2077

    Google Scholar 

  • Branco M, Nunes P, Roques A, Fernandes MR, Orazio C, Jactel H (2019) Urban trees facilitate the establishment of non-native forest insects. NeoBiota 52:25–46

    Google Scholar 

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (2019) Table CAINC1: personal income, population, per capita personal income. Accessed 10 April 2019

  • Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach (2nd ed). Springer-Verlag

  • Clark GF, Johnston EL (2011) Temporal change in the diversity–invasibility relationship in the presence of a disturbance regime. Ecol Lett 14(1):52–57

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Colautti RI, Grigorovich IA, MacIsaac HJ (2006) Propagule pressure: a null model for biological invasions. Biol Invas 8:1023–1037.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coveney J (2008) FIRTHLOGIT: Stata module to calculate bias reduction in logistic regression. Statistical Software Components

  • Coveney J (2015) FIRTHLOGIT: stata module to calculate bias reduction in logistic regression.

  • Cook G, Jarnevich C, Warden M, Downing M, Withrow J, Leinwand I (2019) Iterative models for early detection of invasive species across spread pathways. Forests 10(2):108

    Google Scholar 

  • Dalmazzone S (2000) Economic factors affecting vulnerability to biological invasions. In: Perrings C, Williamson M, Dalmazzone S (eds) The economics of biological invasions. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp 17–30

    Google Scholar 

  • Dawson W, Moser D, Van Kleunen M, Kreft H, Pergl J, Pyšek P, Weigelt P, Winter M, Lenzner B, Blackburn TM, Dyer EE (2017) Global hotspots and correlates of alien species richness across taxonomic groups. Nat Ecol Evolut 1:0186

    Google Scholar 

  • Dyer EE, Cassey P, Redding DW, Collen B, Franks V, Gaston KJ, Jones KE, Kark S, Orme CDL, Blackburn TM (2017) The global distribution and drivers of alien bird species richness. PLoS Biol 15:e2000942

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Ellenwood JR, Krist Jr FJ, Romero SA (2015) National individual tree species atlas. FHTET-15–01.U.S. Forest Service, Forest Health Protection, Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team

  • Epanchin-Niell RS, Haight RG, Berec L, Kean JM, Liebhold AM (2012) Optimal surveillance and eradication of invasive species in heterogeneous landscapes. Ecol Lett 15(8):803–812

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Epanchin-Niell RS, Brockerhoff EG, Kean JM, Turner JA (2014) Designing cost-efficient surveillance for early detection and control of multiple biological invaders. Ecol Appl 24(6):1258–1274

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Epanchin-Niell R (2017) Economics of invasive species policy and management. Biol Invas 19:3333–3354

    Google Scholar 

  • Firth D (1993) Bias reduction of maximum likelihood estimates. Biometrika 80(1):27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gray DR (2004) The gypsy moth life stage model: landscape-wide estimates of gypsy moth establishment using a multi-generational phenology model. Ecol Modell 176(1–2):155–171

    Google Scholar 

  • Hajek AE, Tobin PC (2009) North American eradications of Asian and European gypsy moth. In: Hajek AE, Glare TR, O’Callagham M (eds) Use of microbes for control and eradication of invasive arthropods. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 71–89

    Google Scholar 

  • Hajek AE, Tobin PC (2010) Micro-managing arthropod invasions: eradication and control of invasive arthropods with microbes. Biol Invas 12(9):2895–2912

    Google Scholar 

  • Hauer M, Byars J (2019) IRS county-to-county migration data, 1990–2010. Demogr Res 40:1153–1166

    Google Scholar 

  • Hufbauer RA, Rutschmann A, Serrate B, Vermeil de Conchard H, Facon B (2013) Role of propagule pressure in colonization success: disentangling the relative importance of demographic, genetic and habitat effects. J Evol Biol 26:1691–1699.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hui C, Richardson DM, Landi P, Minoarivelo HO, Garnas J, Roy HE (2016) Defining invasiveness and invasibility in ecological networks. Biol Invas 18(4):971–983

    Google Scholar 

  • Hulme PE (2009) Trade, transport and trouble: managing invasive species pathways in an era of globalization. J Appl Ecol 46(1):10–18

    Google Scholar 

  • Hulme PE (2011) Biosecurity: the changing face of invasion biology. In: Richardson DM (ed) Fifty years of invasion ecology: the legacy of Charles Elton. Blackwell, Chichester, UK, pp 301–314

    Google Scholar 

  • Hulme PE (2015) Invasion pathways at a crossroad: policy and research challenges for managing alien species introductions. J Appl Ecol 52:1418–1424

    Google Scholar 

  • Kean JM, Phillips CB, McNeill MR (2008) Surveillance for early detection: lottery or investment. In: Froud KJ, Popay AI, Zydenbos SM (eds) Surveillance for biosecurity: pre-border to pest management. New Zealand Plant Protection Society Inc., Auckland, New Zealand, pp 11–17

    Google Scholar 

  • Kean JM, Suckling DM, Sullivan NJ, Tobin PC, Stringer LD, et al. (2020) Global eradication and response database. Accessed 15 October 2020

  • Kalaris T, Fieselmann D, Magarey R, Colunga-Garcia M, Roda A, Hardie D, Cogger N, Hammond N, Martin PT, Whittle P (2014) The role of surveillance methods and technologies in plant biosecurity. In: Gordh G, McKirdy S (eds) The handbook of plant biosecurity. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 309–337

    Google Scholar 

  • Kearns DN, Tobin PC (2020) Oregon vs. the gypsy moth: forty years of battling an invasive species. Am Entomol 66(3):50–58

    Google Scholar 

  • King G, Zeng L (2001) Logistic regression in rare events data. Soc Pol Method 27

  • Liebhold A, Mastro V, Schaefer PW (1989) Learning from the legacy of Leopold Trouvelot. Bull Entomol Soc Amer 35:20–22

    Google Scholar 

  • Liebhold AM et al. (1995) Suitability of North American tree species to gypsy moth: a summary of field and laboratory tests. Gen Tech Rep NE-211. USDA, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA

  • Liebhold AM, Leonard D, Marra JL, Pfister SE (2021) Area-wide management of invading gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) populations in the USA. In: Hendrichs J, Pereira R, Vreysen MJB (eds) Area-wide integrated pest management: development and field application. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 551–560

    Google Scholar 

  • Liebhold AM, Bascompte J (2003) The Allee effect, stochastic dynamics and the eradication of alien species. Ecol Lett 6:133–140

    Google Scholar 

  • Liebhold AM, McCullough DG, Blackburn LM, Frankel SJ, Von Holle B, Aukema JE (2013) A highly aggregated geographical distribution of forest pest invasions in the USA. Divers Distrib 19:1208–1216

    Google Scholar 

  • Liebhold AM, Berec L, Brockerhoff EG, Epanchin-Niell RS, Hastings A, Herms DA, Kean JM, McCullough DG, Suckling DM, Tobin PC, Yamanaka T (2016) Eradication of invading insect populations: from concepts to applications. Annu Rev Entomol 61:335–352

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lippitt CD, Rogan J, Toledano J, Sangermano F, Eastman JR, Mastro V, Sawyer A (2008) Incorporating anthropogenic variables into a species distribution model to map gypsy moth risk. Ecol Modell 210(3):339–350

    Google Scholar 

  • Lockwood JL, Cassey P, Blackburn T (2005) The role of propagule pressure in explaining species invasions. Trends Ecol Evol 20(5):223–228

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lockwood JL, Cassey P, Blackburn TM (2009) The more you introduce the more you get: the role of colonization pressure and propagule pressure in invasion ecology. Divers Distrib 15:904–910.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lonsdale WM (1999) Global patterns of plant invasions and the concept of invasibility. Ecology 80(5):1522–1536

    Google Scholar 

  • McFadden MW, McManus ME (1991) An insect out of control? The potential for spread and establishment of the gypsy moth in new forest areas in the United States. In: Baranchikov YN, Mattson WJ, Hain FP, and Payne TL (eds) Forest insect guilds: patterns of interaction with host trees. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-153, US Forest Service, pp 172–186

  • Padayachee AL, Irlich UM, Faulkner KT, Gaertner M, Procheş Ş, Wilson JR, Rouget M (2017) How do invasive species travel to and through urban environments? Biol Invasions 19(12):3557–3570

    Google Scholar 

  • Paini DR, Worner SP, Cook DC, De Barro PJ, Thomas MB (2010) Using a self-organizing map to predict invasive species: sensitivity to data errors and a comparison with expert opinion. J Appl Ecol 47:290–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • PRISM Climate Group (2020) Oregon State University.

  • R Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.

  • Rodríguez-Labajos B, Binimelis R, Monterroso I (2009) Multi-level driving forces of biological invasions. Ecol Econ 69(1):63–75

    Google Scholar 

  • Simberloff D (2009) The role of propagule pressure in biological invasions. Annu Rev Ecol Evolut Syst 40:81–102

    Google Scholar 

  • StataCorp, (2017) Stata statistical software: release 15. StataCorp LLC, College Station, TX

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin PC, Bai BB, Eggen DA, Leonard DS (2012) The ecology, geopolitics, and economics of managing Lymantria dispar in the United States. Int J Pest Manag 58(3):195–210

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin PC, Gray DR, Liebhold AM (2014a) Supraoptimal temperatures influence the range dynamics of a non-native insect. Divers Distrib 20:813–823

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin PC, Kean JM, Suckling DM, McCullough DG, Herms DA, Stringer LD (2014b) Determinants of successful arthropod eradication programs. Biol Invas 16(2):401–414

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin PC, Liebhold AM, Roberts EA, Blackburn LM (2015) Estimating spread rates of non-native species: the gypsy moth as a case study. In: Venette R (ed) Invasive alien species: pest risk modelling and mapping. CABI, Wallingford, UK, pp 131–144

    Google Scholar 

  • Tobin PC, Robinet C, Johnson DM, Whitmire SL, Bjørnstad ON, Liebhold AM (2009) The role of Allee effects in gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar (L.)) invasions. Pop Ecol 51:373–384

    Google Scholar 

  • Traveset A, Richardson DM (2014) Mutualistic interactions and biological invasions. Annu Rev Ecol Evolut Syst 45(1):89–113

    Google Scholar 

  • Turbelin AJ, Malamud BD, Francis RA (2017) Mapping the global state of invasive alien species: patterns of invasion and policy responses. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 26(1):78–92

    Google Scholar 

  • US Department of Agriculture (2019) Gypsy Moth Program Manual. 2019.

  • US Forest Service (2018) Gypsy moth digest. US Forest Service Forest Health Protection Northeastern Area. Accessed 1 June 2018

  • Van Kleunen M, Dawson W, Essl F, Pergl J, Winter M, Weber E, Kreft H, Weigelt P, Kartesz J, Nishino M, Antonova LA (2015) Global exchange and accumulation of non-native plants. Nature 525:100–103

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Venette RC (ed) (2015) Pest risk modelling and mapping for invasive alien species (vol 7). CABI, Wallingford, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Venette RC, Kriticos DJ, Magarey RD, Koch FH, Baker RH, Worner SP, Gómez Raboteaux NN, McKenney DW, Dobesberger EJ, Yemshanov D, De Barro PJ (2010) Pest risk maps for invasive alien species: a roadmap for improvement. Bioscience 60(5):349–362

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitmire SL, Tobin PC (2006) Persistence of invading gypsy moth populations in the United States. Oecologia 147(2):230–237

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Worner SP, Gevrey M (2006) Modelling global insect pest species assemblages to determine risk of invasion. J Appl Ecol 43:858–867.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank E. Luzader with assistance in geospatial data management, Anthony Man-Son-Hing and Paul Chaloux, USDA APHIS for providing data, and L. Dunlap for assistance with figures, and reviewers for their helpful insights. This work was funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. AML received support from grant EVA4.0, No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000803 financed by OP RDE. PCT acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1556111).


This work was funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. AML received support from grant EVA4.0, No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000803 financed by OP RDE. PCT acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1556111).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca Epanchin-Niell.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Epanchin-Niell, R., Lu, J., Thompson, A. et al. Socio-environmental drivers of establishment of Lymantria dispar, a nonnative forest pest, in the United States. Biol Invasions 24, 157–173 (2022).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: