Every now and then, environmental conditions can converge into a “perfect storm” of pests. If you live on Long Island, you know these pests to be the dreaded Gypsy Moth caterpillars. These voracious little leaf munchers will wreak HAVOC on your foliage. During the late weeks of July and into August, adult gypsy moths will lay a mass of eggs, containing anywhere from 100 – 600 eggs per female. These eggs are then hatched the following spring. Under normal or preferred conditions for our northeast climate, the moisture level that accumulates during the winter will give rise to a fungus, fatal to gypsy moth caterpillars. This fungus helps to control the population of caterpillars, therefore, reducing the number of egg-laying adults. If there are fewer eggs being laid in the late summer, there will be fewer foliage destroying caterpillars the following spring. In recent years, Long Island has seen a deficit in early rainfall. This dryer climate has reduced the growth of the fungus responsible for the caterpillar’s population control, leading to an exponential explosion of gypsy moth caterpillars each spring.
While the caterpillars dine on many different species of trees, on Long Island they are usually found on oak, pine, catalpa, dogwood, American holly, mountain laurel and arborvitae. Besides the fact that these icky, spindly monsters will fall and crawl with such staggering numbers that your tree trunks may even appear to be moving, they can also defoliate your trees so severely that they are often fatal to their host. The rapid and repeated defoliation of your trees results in the tree being unable to produce oxygen or carbohydrates, eventually resulting in the death of the tree.
So what can you do?
- You can encourage birds to visit and nest on your property. They will happily feast on these caterpillars however, in very heavy infestations they may not be able to keep up.
- Plant a variety of trees in your yard. In the event of a large scale infestation, your trees wont suffer a total loss if there are limited food sources.
- SPRAY! SPRAY! SPRAY! Schedule repeated sprays throughout the spring. Our certified arborists will use eco-friendly methods to drastically reduce the caterpillar population and defoliation of your trees.
- TLC for your trees! Keeping your trees healthy is paramount to their recovery. By keeping your trees watered, fed and fertilized they are much more likely to recover from any damage sustained during the feeding frenzy.
- Using burlap or double-sided tape, band your trees around the trunk. This helps prevent the caterpillars from reaching the leaves. They can then manually be disposed of.
So don’t wait! These hungry pests are just now emerging to feast on your new leaves! We here at Fox are here to meet all your tree care needs! We have decades of education and experience to help you get the most from your property.