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Gypsy moth caterpillars rain poop down on upstate NY

Caterpillars from a species that has exploded in population in upstate New York are gorging on tree leaves and showering excrement onto residential yards, according to residents from the region.

The invasive bug is in the midst of a population boom and the creatures in larva stage are out in numbers not seen in over a decade, according to media reports and advisories from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Schuyler County resident Shannan Warick told Syracuse.com she moved her outdoor furniture away from caterpillar-infested trees – and the larva’s droppings.

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

The little buggers have torn through leafy trees like oaks and moved on to pines and needles to the point where some locals say entire forests have been drained of green. Dwight Relation, owner of Rockwood Maples in West Chazy, told the Press-Republican the caterpillars de-leafed 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 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommends scraping egg masses off of trees or drowning caterpillars in soapy water – but warns against touching them because the hairs on their back can cause skin irritation.

Their eggs alone can be a nuisance.

“Gypsy moth will lay its egg masses on anything outdoors, it doesn’t have to be trees,” DEC Forester Rob Cole said during a Facebook Live on the outbreak.

still small caterpillar of the sponge moth on the leaf of a red oak
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation warns against touching the gypsy moth caterpillars.
Sebastian Willnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

“It’ll lay egg masses on the side of your house, on your outdoor equipment, on your patio furniture.”

Chris Koetzle, supervisor of the town of Glenville, told News 10 ABC he feels “stuck” without a lot of answers.

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

The caterpillars are likely to become moths in July, according to the DEC. The outbreaks come can last about two or three years, the agency stated

Gypsy Moths were brought from Europe in the 1800s by an entrepreneur looking to increase silk production, Cole stated. They escaped their cages and are now present throughout the northeast and Midwest and are moving south, he said.

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