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When amateur entomologist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot introduced gypsy moth caterpillars to Massachusetts in the late 1860s, he wanted to set up a new business in silk production. Instead, he set off an invasion.

The destructive moths have been creeping farther south and west ever since, devastating forests by eating the foliage of hundreds of native North American plant species. The U.S. Forest Service has intervened aggressively to slow their spread at the invasion fronts.

Hot temperatures might turn out to be a formidable foe in the Southeast. At least, that is the working theory of biology professor Kristine Grayson and three undergraduates who researched the pests with her this summer on campus. Facilities staff built for them a custom research station in the woods near the Gottwald Center. There, moths sweated out the summer while the research team measured the effectiveness of their summer lovin’.

Early data showed indications of the heat reducing their reproductive success, suggesting that the invasion may be reaching regional limits. Compared with a Southern summer’s day, it seems, moths prefer their loves more temperate.