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Gypsy months particularly pesky this year

May 27, 2021   ·   0 Comments

Residents in New Tecumseth are reporting a high number of cases of gypsy moths this spring and, along with that, many people are reporting getting a rash from coming in contact with the caterpillar stage of this invasive species.

The little critters were brought over from Europe around 150 years ago and are not native to North America.

This is hatching time for the gypsy moths who lay their eggs in hardwood trees.

The larvae consume the leaves of over 500 species of tree, shrubs, and plants and cause significant defoliation if they are left unchecked.

Typically, the moths go through cycles that see the population suddenly increase every seven to ten years.

This year is in one of those cycle years and gypsy moths are being reported all over Ontario.

In some areas, the problem is so bad that municipalities have taken to spraying from a helicopter to kill the larvae. Residents in London, ON, watched as helicopters sprayed trees in an effort to kill the bugs that have made it to the tree tops.

That city is reporting a gypsy moth population ten times it normally is for this year.

Locally, some residents are reporting that they are getting a poison ivy type rash because of the gypsy moth outbreak.

The small larvae take to the air and are carried by the wind. The larvae spin silk-like threads and hang from them while waiting for the wind to blow.

While direct contact with a caterpillar can cause irritation due to the spiny-like small hairs, some people can have a more severe reaction.

According to medical experts, the small hairs can travel through the air and land on a person or land on clothing which later touches the skin.

If a person is sensitive to the hairs, it can result in mild to moderate stinging or pain accompanied by welts, blistering, and patches of red scaly skin. The condition can last up to several days.

A local convenience store reported that a number of people have visited looking for Benadryl, the anti-itch and allergy medicine, to sooth the gypsy moth rash after another local pharmacy had already run out of the product.

Tottenham resident Jonathan Mauti was alerted to the infestation by a neighbour. When he checked the trees on his property, he found several of them had the caterpillars.

Mr. Mauti applied duct tape to the trunks of the trees about three feet from the base.

The technique worked well and he caught thousands of the tiny caterpillars.

Several other houses on McCurdy Street also have the trees taped to combat the pests.

There are three ways you can try to get rid of the moths.

At the egg stage, the egg mass can be scraped off with a knife and dropped into a bucket filled with hot water and household bleach or ammonia.

Be advised that egg masses won’t just be on trees. They can be hidden in other areas like fences, firewood, swing sets, and under the eves of buildings.

At the caterpillar stage, you can just handpick the caterpillar and destroy them. However, you must have a lot of patience and time on your hands to be chasing down individual caterpillars.

Caterpillars can also be trapped by wrapping a wide strip of burlap around an infected tree at chest height. Tie a string around the centre of the burlap and fold the upper portion down to form a skirt with the string acting as a belt.

The caterpillars will crawl up under the burlap to escape the sun.

Lift the burlap to catch and kill the caterpillars.

By Brian Lockhart
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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