2024 Gypsy Moth Outbreak Could Kill Thousands of Hudson Valley Trees

Gypsy moths, also known as spongy moths, have broken out in the Hudson Valley and Catskills region nearly every summer in the recent past.

If you’ve gone hiking or even looked around your yard in the last month or so, they’re almost impossible to miss. The most prominent sign of them are fine silken threads in the air or on tree and plant surfaces. Beyond that, you may see dark, brown fuzzy caterpillars hanging on or off of trees, feeding on leaves. In wooded areas, you may be serenaded by a pitter-patter sound, similar to rainfall, except it’s the sound of caterpillar feces hitting the ground. Soon, they’ll turn into swarms of moths, and in July and August, we’ll see dark brown egg masses laid on tree trunks and other outdoor surfaces, seeding next year’s moth outbreak.

Recent posts on the /r/HudsonValley subreddit about gypsy moths include:

“What are these disgusting little caterpillars that popped up overnight?”

“Finally figured out what the rain sound is in the woods on a dry day!”

“What are these massive things on a tree?”

“How do I get rid of spongy moths when they emerge out of their cocoons?”

Caterpillars and moths aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but when the gypsy or spongy moth are especially prominent every several years, due to warm and mild winters, they can be devastating to trees. They feed on leaves, causing “defoliation.” While many trees can regrow their leaves after a defoliation, if it happens too often, it can be a death blow to trees that are fighting off disease or drought. Conifer trees like hemlock, pine, spruce and southern white cedar are especially vulnerable.

If Google Trends are any indication, this could be a historically bad year for gypsy moths in New York State, especially on the heels of a few years of other outbreaks:

What can you do to protect your trees?

Some things that you can do to fight off spongy moths are:

  • Remove them manually (while wearing gloves)
  • Protect trees with a burlap “flap trap” that can be applied to the tree
  • Squish or drown caterpillars and moths with soapy water
  • Remove spongy moth eggs from trees in the late summer, putting them in soapy water
  • Consider pesticide sprays or insectisides

Additionally, if your tree has been decimated by moth feeding, give it some extra water.

What happens if your tree is killed by gypsy moths?

According to some studies, 15% of trees damaged by gypsy moths eventually die, and it’s believed that New York State could lose around 5% of its trees from gypsy moth infestations. A dead or dying tree can be a massive hazard to you, your loved ones and your property.

Expert Tree Service, which serves the Hudson Valley and Catskills regions, has decades of experience in trimming or removing trees that have been affected by gypsy moths. Contact us today to learn more.

Contact Us:

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.