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Gypsy moth caterpillars invading parts of Connecticut

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Maybe you’re old enough to remember major infestations of gypsy moths and caterpillars back in the 1970’s. In 1981, over a million acres of trees suffered total defoliation after the caterpillars ate their way through the state.

This year, for the second in a row, the caterpillars are back. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station says they are seeing widespread outbreaks in both Middlesex and New London counties.

“The caterpillars actually hatched from the egg masses in late April. They’ll be feeding through June and then they’ll pupate and in July we would have adult moth activity again laying a lot of eggs,” said state entomologist Kirby Stafford.

Stafford says this years infestation isn’t a surprise. Last year, most of the caterpillars lived long enough to become adult moths and lay eggs. Stafford says to break the cycle, we need rain to help grow a fungus that kills the caterpillars.

“In 1989, our station scientists discovered a fungus that was killing off the caterpillar and that gypsy moth fungus has pretty much kept the gypsy moth under control since then. That said we do get occasional outbreaks,” said Stafford.

News 8’s Chief Photographer Keith Porter spent much of his weekend battling a caterpillar infestation at his home.

“We lived here since ’99. I have never in my life seen caterpillars just totally, just take over a house,” said Porter.

Porter tried power washing, but just ten minutes later the caterpillars began creeping up the foundation again. Porter eventually tried an organic bug spray that seemed to do the trick.

For more information on gypsy moths, click here.

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