‘Biblical’ plague of caterpillars wrecking forest and dropping poo on walkers
A ‘biblical’ plague of caterpillars is wrecking ancient woodland across upstate New York and “raining poo” on walkers.
“It’s not just the devastation of trees. They eat 24 hours a day and they poop everywhere,” said local farmer Jed Metzger. “It’s like a biblical thing … It’s like a wildfire, only they eat everything.”
Millions of the two-inch long gypsy moth caterpillars have spread across the Finger Lakes and North Country regions of New York in the worst plague of its kind in over 30 years.
“It seems like they’re all over the place,” said Department of Environmental Conservation [DEC] insect expert Liam Somers told the Democrat and Chronicle. “It just looks like fall because there’s just nothing on the trees”.
Metzger says his wife “won’t come to the house because it’s just so disgusting…if you go outside they fall on you and it’s gross”.
While the DEC sprays pesticide on “ecologically or culturally significant forests” it advises owners of small farms to kill the bugs by “squishing and scraping” them.
“Why can’t we decide to have some governmental response?” Metzger asks, saying that he’s trying to get his neighbours to club together to organise a private spraying.
He adds that the region is heavily dependent on tourism and that with so many trees dead upstate New York is much less attractive to hikers.
Experts fear that some trees may never recover.
There is some hope, though. An outbreak of virus called nucleopolyhedrosis [NPV], which is deadly to gypsy moths has begun to spread through the gigantic swarm.
The bugs were accidentally introduced to America in 1869, as part of an experiment to create a hybrid silkworm that could be used to kick start a silk industry in the US.
The silk venture failed, but enough of the creatures escaped to build a thriving colony that now extends as far as the Midwest.
This year weather conditions have been ideal for the moths to breed in record numbers.
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