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Connecticut News

Trees in Litchfield County could be hit again by the spongy moth

Male and female adult spongy moth.jpg
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
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Male and female adult spongy moth

Scientists have warned residents in northwestern Connecticut to expect a heavy presence of spongy moths this year.

The moth caterpillars were responsible for the defoliation over 45,000 acres of forest in Litchfield County last year.

State Entomologist Victoria Smit said their annual survey has shown the moths will be back in force again this year.

“Over the winter my crew does an egg mass survey. We have grid points roughly every seven miles throughout the entire state. And we found a tremendous number of eggs in that area that were defoliated,” Smith said of the research by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. “So, we knew there was a possibility that there would be severe defoliation again this year.”

Smith said people with oak and maple trees on their property need to be on the lookout for eggs or moths. Large scale control of the moth is difficult as the caterpillars can be carried on the wind.

However, she said they’re hoping for a wet summer so that a natural fungus could grow and kill spongy moth caterpillars, and help reduce their numbers.

“If you’ve got some trees that you’re really concerned about,” Smith said. “Keep your trees well-watered and water the ground around the trees to give the fungus a chance to get going as well.”

The bug used to be known as gypsy moth, which was changed by the Entomological Society of America because of its derogation of the Romani people.