SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The invasive spongy moth is causing headaches for residents in Saratoga Springs who can’t seem to rid their properties of the fuzzy larvae. They’re seen crawling on homes, garages, and falling from trees.
“Last year was bad, but this year is worse,” said Gay Murrisky, who spends hours raking her property of leaves falling from trees being feasted on by the caterpillars. “Next year, they’re going to be back again.”
Typically, when the spongy moth population explodes like this, viral pathogens will eventually knock it back. The issue is cyclical, and will likely come up every 10 to 15 years in a given area of New York.
“Once this new population dies down in another year or two, hopefully it won’t come back for a while,” said Justin Perry, Chief of the Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
In the meantime, the DEC recommends you mitigate the creepy crawler problem by taping your trees or putting sticky bands around them. This will keep the caterpillars from crawling back up into the tree once they’ve fallen or come down to escape the midday heat.
Their preferred hosts are oak trees. Bare branches can be spotted in neighborhoods where the larvae are thriving. Once they reach the life stage of becoming a moth, the feeding is over, but then it’s time to lay eggs. The DEC advises you to just wait it out.
“The eggs are a tan, velvety patch you can see on your house, on tree trunks, and other areas. You can go around and scrape those into a bag or can this summer and fall, and that will hopefully have a slight impact in next year’s population,” Perry said.
The DEC has sprayed a spongy moth treatment in high-priority forest areas.
Some people have reported allergic reactions caused by coming into contact with the hairy caterpillars. Perry said this is not common, but you should consult your doctor if you develop a rash.
It is Invasive Species Awareness Week in New York State. Organizations across all of New York State are offering a variety of engaging events, such as interpretive hikes, volunteer days, webinars, movie screenings, and fun family activities.