Gypsy Moth Caterpillars Eat Connecticut Tree Foliage

Repeated attacks by moth moth larvae can weaken a tree’s ability to ward off secondary stressors.

CONNECTICUT, USA – Gypsy moth caterpillars are beginning to hatch and a heavy infestation of the invasive stink bug is expected this year, and it could be even worse if we see dry weather in Connecticut this spring.

Gypsy moths used to be called “gypsy moths,” but the Entomological Society of America revised the name this year. Although the name is new, the destruction of trees is well known. As they grow, the caterpillars feed on tree leaves, preferring oaks or other leafy trees like hemlock and white pine.

Repeated moth moth attacks can weaken a tree’s natural ability to ward off secondary stressors such as drought or other insects and disease.

But a soil fungus called Entomophaga maimaiga is only lethal to moth moth caterpillars and controls their populations. The fungus is activated by wet spring conditions, so a dry season could mean more caterpillars, preventing trees from regrowing leaves or “refoliating”.

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Officials are particularly worried about trees in northern Litchfield County, saying that in the past year they have found large amounts of egg masses there, “leading us to believe there will be an outbreak continued and extensive caterpillar activity in 2022,” said Deputy State Entomologist Dr. Victoria Smith. Residents, arborists, and foresters have also reported large amounts of gypsy moth egg masses.

“2021 was the first year of widespread defoliation in northwest Connecticut and most healthy trees were refoliated in part due to sufficient summer rainfall. The energy required to refoliate places significant stress on the trees, increasing the risk of tree mortality in 2022,” said DEEP Forestry Manager Chris Martin.

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Jareliz Diaz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]

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