Bug experts say it's not too late to fight back against invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars | WHEC.com

Bug experts say it's not too late to fight back against invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars

Created: June 09, 2021 10:22 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Bug experts say it’s still possible to fight back against an invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars, but the Rochester area and its trees are in for a tough few months.

Megan Maurer of Irondequoit says she's battling a full-fledged invasion as hordes of gypsy moth caterpillars come crawling into the neighborhood and rappelling down from the trees.

"They are destroying plants, gardens,” Mauer said. "Our houses and toys and they're all over our kids when our kids are out playing. I picked six off my son last night. And they're getting big. Every couple of hours I'm out here spraying or trying to get rid of them."

"This is a bad year, and we're really starting to see the damage,” Cornell pest expert Brian Eshenaur said.

He says the warm, dry weather has been perfect for the bugs. The Rochester area is in the middle of a multi-year explosion of the gypsy moth population, which can strip the leaves off beloved oak and maple trees. Those trees, he explained, can grow their leaves back, but the caterpillars could quickly destroy evergreens.

"If the damage is severe enough, one year’s worth of damage on a spruce tree can kill it,” he said.

Some Finger Lakes communities have resorted to large-scale spraying to kill the caterpillars and their telltale egg clusters on tree trunks, while people like Maurer use dish soap and wrap trees in burlap to trap the bugs as they climb. 

"With their little caterpillar brains, they don't know to come back around,” Eshenaur said. "The drive is just to continue to go straight up, and they're just gonna stay in there." 

Eshenaur says if there's any landscaping you care about, burlap or a sticky barrier, like commercially available Tanglefoot, can protect individual trees because this creepy-crawly plague is unlikely to end soon. 

“We are in the middle of it right now, yeah, and likely, we’ll see more of it next year,” he said.

"Ride it out. That’s the best we can do,” Maurer said. “The neighbors have been very helpful. And everyone has new ideas, and we’re just trying everything.”

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