Gypsy moth caterpillars wreaking havoc on southeastern Ontario forests

Some unwanted visitors have taken up residence on Shore Road just off Highway 2 in Kingston East. Thousands of gypsy moth caterpillars are working their way through the trees in this particular area and residents aren’t very happy about it.

“You can’t be peed-off with Mother Nature,” said concerned resident Roland Paddle. “She’s going to do what she wants to do.”

But that doesn’t make the devastation any easier.

“All we’ve got left is skeleton leaves,” Paddle said. “The leaf skeleton is all that’s left — the rest was devoured.”

Read more: Outbreak of gypsy moth caterpillars ravaging trees in Ontario and there could be record damage

These types of situations present themselves every few years, but Paddle says he’s never seen anything like this year’s version.

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“We had tent caterpillars,” Paddle said. “Tent caterpillars we something that we used to deal with. You could take a torch and burn them. But these here, we don’t know where they come from. We don’t know where their nest is.

“Currently the worst that it’s ever been.” Eco Tree Care owner, John Madden said. “This is breaking records in 2021. It’s the most populated they’ve ever been in history, so it’s serious right now.”

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John Madden and his crew are helping to fight the invasion.

“They’ve been really bad up north,” Madden said. “Sharbot Lake I believe the third year, it’s almost total defoliation.

“Coming down further south, Sydenham and Kingston, they’re really starting to see it now for the first or second year.”

And there are a few reasons people are seeing critters and the damage they’re doing.

“The lack of not having very cold winters,” Invasive Species Centre entomologist David Dutkiewicz said. “The lack of not having large amounts of predators in the area of gypsy moth where it could knock back the population.”

Read more: London targets European gypsy moths with first aerial spraying in over a decade

As to how to handle these pesky invaders, Madden says there are things you can do yourself.

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“Tie the sheet of burlap around the tree at about chest height,” Madden said. “Then tie a string around it and fold it over itself so that the caterpillar on their way up the tree. They’ll go up and down the tree during the day and they’ll get caught in it and you can drown the caterpillars.

“You can also put a ring of tape on it but you also want to be cautious just due to the fact that birds and special insects don’t get stuck on that tape.”

Last year alone, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says around 570,000 hectares of tree defoliation took place in the province because of gypsy moths.

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