Holland again under siege by gypsy moth caterpillars

So far, tree damage has been minimal

HOLLAND, Mass. (WWLP) – There is an infestation in the eastern Hampden County town of Holland! Once again, the town is experiencing an invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars.

Small caterpillars are now everywhere- on homes, all over the police department headquarters, and at the town hall. A mailbox set up outside Town Hall to pay bills is covered in the crawly creatures.

So far, the trees in Holland have been largely unscathed, but gypsy moth caterpillars are known for being destructive. Last year, they defoliated more than 350,000 acres of forest land across the state, with Holland being one of the communities hardest-hit by the 2016 infestation. This town of 2,500 had an even worse infestation 35 years ago.

“1982, we had a real bad infestation of gypsy moths, back then defoliation and dead trees, after two of three years, most of these trees don’t reproduce leaves,” Mark Mitchell of Holland said.

In addition to being destructive to trees, they can be irritating to humans. Gypsy moth caterpillars don’t actually bite, but exposure to their hairs or spines can irritate your skin.

“Itchy! It’s terrible,” Ken Ference of Holland said. “The town’s infested: it’s awful, people are spraying, you can’t keep up with it.”

Dave Kowalski of the Holland Board of Health told 22News that there is unfortunately not much that they can do about it, other than wait for the caterpillars to go away. He said that they are hoping for rain to bring the fungus that kills the caterpillars.

Holland is not the only place where the caterpillars have been spotted. Caterpillars were seen hatching in an area off Route 202 in Belchertown weeks ago, and 22News has also received reports of gypsy moth caterpillars in Monson.

Gypsy moth caterpillars are particularly drawn to oak trees, but they will eat the leaves of pretty much any type of deciduous trees, and have even been known to eat needles of evergreen trees, such as pine and hemlock.

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