Last year’s dry spring, coupled with a stretch of dry weather this year, has helped to fuel the resurgence of the gypsy moth caterpillar, a furry nuisance blamed for defoliating an estimated 9 million acres from Maine to Maryland in 1981.
Scientists say this year’s crop of caterpillars is one of the largest they’ve seen in southern parts of New England since the 1980s. The critters are being blamed for stripping foliage from thousands of acres of trees in pockets across the region, often leaving behind barren branches. Some warn that next year could be even worse, considering that there has been no significant wet weather in recent weeks to spark a fungus that feeds on the gypsy moth.
“I suspect we’re going to be facing a real issue next year,” said Kirby C. Stafford III, Connecticut’s chief scientist and state entomologist. Although oaks and other trees can often withstand a single defoliation, Stafford warned that after “getting slammed two years in a row, we’ll probably see a lot of tree mortality” next year.
The Boston bureau of the National Weather Service recently tweeted satellite pictures from May and June showing that “notable” tree defoliation has occurred in southeastern New England, especially western Rhode Island.
In New Hampshire, forestry experts said this month that they have received reports of large numbers of gypsy moth and forest tent caterpillars, but so far no defoliation.
Article credit: Associated Press, Washington Post