Population of caterpillar harmful to trees at highest levels since 2005

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s common to see a caterpillar or two in the warm months, but the quantity of one variety this year has some local scientists concerned and asking the public for help.

Dr. Gale Ridge, an assistant scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, says for the last three weeks, her office has been getting reports from all over the state of an explosion in population of gypsy moths, the most, she says, since 2005.

“We’ve had two consecutive dry springs, last year and this year, and this has conspired to favor the caterpillars,” said Ridge.

Favor them because when it’s moist, most of the gypsy moth caterpillars die due to diseases that thrive in the wet conditions.

The caterpillars are harmless to people, but not trees.

“They are a problem to forest trees and urban setting trees,” said Ridge.

Their source of food is leaves, which the tree has to grow back so it can eat.

“This can sort of exhaust the tree and can eventually kill it,” said Ridge.

The caterpillars can also be a bit of nuisance. They eat primarily at night, making a loud clicking noise in the process, and leaving behind piles of waste. Dr. Ridge says people who see the moths’ egg sacks should act.

“If people see egg masses, which will start to appear when the adults appear in July and August, to destroy the egg masses,” said Ridge.

The caterpillars have impacted the shoreline the hardest.

If you see gypsy moth caterpillars in your area, you’re asked to call the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station at (203) 974-8500.

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