May 17, 2022

Caterpillars from Gypsy Moths have exploded in population in upstate New York, munching on tree leaves and depositing excrement in the neighborhood yards, according to the residents.

According to media reports and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) alerts, the invasive bug is undergoing a population boom, with larvae out in massive numbers not seen in over a decade.

Shannan Warick of Schuyler County told Syracuse.com that she relocated her patio furniture away from caterpillar-infested trees – and their droppings.

“It sounds like it’s raining in the backyard,” she said. “It’s really disgusting.”

The tiny pests have ripped through leafy trees such as oaks and moved on to pines and needles, to the point that some residents claim that entire woods have been stripped of their greenery. According to Dwight Relation, owner of Rockwood Maples in West Chazy, caterpillars stripped the leaves off his oaks, pines, and white birches.

“They just kept eating and eating and eating,” Relation told the paper, which compared the property to a scene out of Hitchcock or Kafka.

“There’s no green vegetation at all,” he added. “Everything’s gone. It almost looks like it got hit with a nuke … like a chemical, and it just killed everything in sight for hundreds of yards.”

The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends removing egg masses from trees or drowning caterpillars in soapy water — but cautions against handling them since their back hairs can irritate the skin.

Chris Koetzle, the supervisor of Glenville, told News 10 ABC that he feels “trapped” in the absence of common answers.

“They’re talking about individually drowning the caterpillar — which there are millions of them — so that’s not really practical,” Koetzle said.

Gypsy moths were from Europe and were introduced to the United States in the 1800s by an entrepreneur seeking to expand silk production. It had escaped from its cages and is now spreading throughout the Northeast and Midwest and are now going south.