SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Warmer weather often means spending more time outside but for residents of one neighborhood in Saratoga Springs, an invasive moth is making spending time outdoors less than enjoyable.
Many properties in the Geyser Crest development are covered in hundreds of invasive spongy moths. “This year it’s like it exploded ten thousand times more where you can’t even go outside,” says resident Tabitha Larkin, who, along with Cathy Hoff, who also lives in the development, alerted NEWS10 about the infestation.
The spongy moth is a non-native insect from France which feeds on the leaves of a variety of trees, especially oak; leaving them bare at a time when they are usually verdant in the spring and summer months. “Normally we get a beautiful canopy of shade in the summer but we don’t have that because they look exactly like these,” says Cathy Hoff as she points to a bare oak tree, “like it’s fall, there are no leaves on them so I think it’s probably the oak trees because that is what they eat the most of.”
According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, elevated populations of the spongy moth caterpillars were high in Saratoga and Warren counties, among others in New York State last summer. DEC says the “hairs on their (spongy moth) backs can cause mild to moderate skin irritation in some people.”
Meghan Caldwell, who lives in the Geyser Crest development says this summer, the bugs are much worse than last. “This summer there are thousands of them. They’re all over the trees. They’re all in my flowers and on my shed,” Caldwell says, “and we’ve been told by the DEC that there are certain things you can use. You can tape your trees. You can use like BT spray but unfortunately, it’s like kill on contact rather than preventative but there’s so many of them that they keep coming back.”
The DEC says the moths have naturalized in forests across New York since they were introduced in the late 1860s. The department also says it does not typically manage spongy moth outbreaks, except in “ecologically or culturally significant forests”. DEC also says it does not provide funding to combat spongy moth outbreaks on private property but residents of this neighborhood are hoping someone can help them deal with the infestation.