Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.) spread is dominated by stratified dispersal, and, although spread rates are variable in space and time, the gypsy moth has invaded Wisconsin at a consistently higher rate than in other regions. Allee effects, which act on low-density populations ahead of the moving population that contribute to gypsy moth spread, have also been observed to be consistently weaker in Wisconsin. Because a major cause of an Allee effect in the gypsy moth is mate-finding failure at low densities, supplementing low-density populations with immigrants that arrive through dispersal may facilitate establishment and consequent spread. We used local indicator of spatial autocorrelation methods to examine space-time gypsy moth monitoring data from 1996 to 2006 and identify isolated, low-density colonies that arrived through dispersal. We measured the distance of these colonies from the moving population front to show that long-distance dispersal was markedly present in earlier years when Wisconsin was still mainly uninfested. Recently, however, immigrants arriving through long-distance dispersal may no longer be detected because instead of invading uninfested areas, they are now supplementing high-density colonies. In contrast, we observed no temporal pattern in the distance between low-density colonies and the population front in West Virginia and Virginia. We submit that long-distance dispersal, perhaps facilitated through meteorological mechanisms, played an important role in the spread dynamics of the initial Wisconsin gypsy moth invasion, but it currently plays a lesser role because the portion of Wisconsin most susceptible to long-distance immigrants from alternate sources is now heavily infested.
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