The gypsy moth has been around since the mid-1800s and causes issues every 10 to 15 years, state Department of Environmental Conservation’s forester Rob Cole said via Facebook Live on June 16.
Although the stream was done earlier in the summer, the caterpillars are still moving along in the process to metamorphosize into adults. That’s what they are up to at the moment.
“Gypsy moths have naturalized in New York and is typical in nature,” Cole said. “It is always around but we often don’t see any of it. But then every 10 years, the populations builds and we have these outbreaks that we see.”
The outbreaks happen in a cycle and often can cause concern among the public including homeowners. People who find themselves outdoors a lot in the summer may need to watch for droppings falling from the tops of the trees.
“In 2021, we’re seeing infestations and outbreaks in several areas of the state including in the Finger Lakes and up in the north country,” Cole said.
Cole said the moth prefers to remain on deciduous trees such as maples, oaks, locust, willow and apple trees. Deforestation of these trees will happen in the summer due to the moth in the larvae stage. Cole noted that the leaves will regrow.
“They will put out a new flush of leaves probably in the next month or so,” he said.
The predator to the gypsy moth lies in bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. Cole explained how the predators attack the cycling stages of the moth and for how long the process usually goes on.
“What we end up with is a two-to-three-year infestation before the population builds up and really knocks it back heavily before the second or third year when you see those symptoms going on,” he said.
Due to the naturalization of the moth in northern New York, the DEC has not established a widespread program of treatment for the moth. However, for individuals who live on land surrounded by deciduous trees, the DEC has some forms of treatment for those who need it.
“We can provide technical guidance; we can provide you with identification. If you see defoliation, we can let you know (if it) is gypsy moth or is it something else. Then we can give you methods of control,” he said.
Cole highlighted methods of control should be started in the spring. Due to the naturalization of the moth, anyone looking to treat trees in their area affected by the gypsy moth should begin before they are seen.
“A lot of this stuff you need to do early on while the caterpillars are small so that you can really get to it,” he said.
One method of control a homeowner can use to save their trees from being snacked on by the caterpillars is create their own sticky band. The band will run around the tree to catch the caterpillars and can be made of duct tape that has been slathered with petroleum jelly.
“The gypsy moth caterpillar crawls up and down the tree early in the day and in the evening, and that will catch them so you can make that yourself, you can go out and buy sticky substances or you can use something such as Vaseline and that will get them caught up in it and they won’t be able to get through it,” he said.