Gypsy moth infestation could lead to major defoliation experts say

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Cicadas aren’t the only ones heavily infesting some areas, but gypsy moths as well.

According to Dr. Donald Eggen, forest health manager with DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, the insects are really bad this year.

“This is a large infestation, very, very high egg mass numbers. They built up pretty rapidly from last year,” said Eggen.

The reason? Dr. Eggen says it’s due to the warm, dry weather. And while the gypsy moths might look small, he says that they’re a big threat.

“Right now the gypsy moth is in its final stages of being a caterpillar. It’s the largest stage and they’re doing the most feeding,” said Eggen.

Which he says can cause some major damage.

“You can get total defoliation from 250 to 500 egg masses per acre, we were counting 2,000 to 10,000 egg masses per acre. So that’s bad for the tree. Because it just put out that leaf and now the caterpillar came along and ate it and it hasn’t photosynthesized and made food,” said Eggen.

Dr. Eggen says that the tree can make new leaves but they won’t be the same.

“Those leaves aren’t as green, they’re not as efficient in doing photosynthesis. So now that tree is in a weakened state,” said Eggen.

Kelli Hoover, Professor of Entomology at Penn State University says she remembers outbreaks so sever, that it looked like winter during the summer.

“The leaves were just completely defoliated off lots and lots of trees. And people were getting really annoyed with the piles of caterpillars that were piling up on their decks. And you know, you’d walk through the woods and it’d sound like it was raining because they were dropping insect poop from the trees. You needed a hat,” said Hoover.

Currently in her back yard, she says the insects are abundant.

“When I see them I just stomp on them,” said Hoover.

Instead of touching them, as she says the hairs on gypsy moths can cause people to have an allergic reaction.

“I one time had a student who we were doing a lot of work with gypsy moths in the lab and one day she took her gloves off because her hands were really bothering her and they were completely covered in rashes. I had to send her to the hospital in case she had an anaphylactic reaction,” said Hoover.

Which is why Hoover tells people to just be patient with the moths.

“You know they’re not going to be around all that much longer. Maybe a couple of weeks,” said Hoover.

Dr. Eggen agrees saying there’s not anything anyone can do anyway at this point about them.

“When we get to June at this stage of the game it’s too late you needed to do something in the month of May. Our first spray day was May 10 and our last spray day was May 27. We had 8 sprayer crafts and 2 helicopters,” said Eggen.


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