Her come the Cats again! (Caterpillars, that is)

Written by horticulture  |  07. May 2001

Once again this year, the east end of Long Island is facing an epidemic. This epidemic is not a disease, it is the invasion of the Gypsy Moth Caterpillar. Everyone has seen these caterpillars, they are about 2 inches long, black with yellow and red spots running down their furry bodies. I used to play with them thinking they were cute. Ordinarilly these caterpillars are only a nuisance, hanging down by their silken threads, but when the populations reach the numbers that they have in East Hampton and Sag Harbor, these pests can destroy trees. The damage that they do is caused by their feeding on the leaves of deciduous trees (ie. maples and oaks)and some conifers. Most trees can stand defoliation for one year, if they are healthy or have sufficient nutrients to support their releafing process.However, the more often that the trees have to replace their foliage, the weaker they become. After 2-3 years of defoliation, if their food supply is not renewed through natural or artifical means, they are at a greater risk of death. Gypsy moths are not the only caterpillar that has reared its ugly head. The past week has seen an explosion of Cankerworm and Eastern Tent Caterpillar as well. These caterpillars can be controlled in their early stages using a material known as Bacillus Thuringiensis. This naturally occuring bacteria effects only caterpillars but is only effective when they are small. Once they grow to over 1 inch in length then conventional pesticides must be employed. If you have any questions or would like more information, feel free to contact me at 516-496-7096 in Nassau or 631-698-4900 in suffolk or by E-mail at aplantdoctor@hotmail.com.

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