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RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462
DEM SAYS NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTROL DAMAGE FROM GYPSY MOTH CATERPILLARS
"We are seeing heavy populations of gypsy moths in localized areas, and recommending that residents who want to protect their trees, particularly oaks, from damage, do so now," says Catherine Sparks, Acting Chief of DEM's Division of Forest Environment. Although gypsy moth caterpillars prefer oaks, they will attack other trees such as apple, willow, poplar, hawthorn, pine, hemlock, and spruce. "For any spray application to be effective, it is the foliage that must be sprayed with insecticide – not the caterpillars themselves," Sparks notes. She says that this is the ideal time to spray, now that the leaves are fully out, and while the caterpillars are still small. "If homeowners wait until caterpillars grow too large and the leaves have all been consumed, they will have lost their opportunity to control the problems caused by these pests."
The state has no gypsy moth damage prevention spray program, Sparks notes, adding that residents should consider hiring private pesticide applicators. "Be sure they are Rhode Island-licensed and certified," Sparks says, adding that DEM recommends that the applicators use biological controls to control the pests. If residents choose to do the spraying themselves, she cautions, "they need to read and follow label directions carefully, so as to not mis-apply the pesticide."
Although the caterpillars are causing problems now, Sparks sees potential good news ahead. "Although the egg masses this year are numerous," she says, "they are small in size. That indicates the gypsy moth population may be about to crash in the hardest hit areas in the central part of the state."