BELCHERTOWN, Mass.(WWLP) – They were a big problem in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and then they pretty much disappeared.
“Since about 1989, roughly around that time frame, a fungus was first noticed in North America. It started infecting gypsy moth caterpillars and killing the caterpillars,” said Tawny Simisky an extension entomologist at UMass.
However, they’ve made a come back, and last year gypsy moth caterpillars defoliated more than 350,000 acres across Massachusetts. In Belchertown, the gypsy moth caterpillar eggs have already hatched; and the weather over the last couple of years is being blamed for their return.
“In 2015-2016 we experienced some pretty significant drought conditions in Massachusetts, and in most of the northeast. It’s thought that the drought in the spring of both of those years reduced the ability of that fungus to infect the caterpillars,” said Simisky.
The baby gypsy moth caterpillars have already started eating the leaves, they usually go after the oak trees first.
Simisky said there are things you can use to help get rid of the caterpillars, but you’ll want to act soon; “There are biological insecticides such as “btk” that can be applied when the caterpillars are roughly under ¾ of an inch and actively feeding as that insecticide needs to be ingested to be effective.”
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