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Gypsy Moth Caterpillars Wreaking Havoc On Tri-State Area Trees

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Due to a mostly dry spring, droves of gypsy moth caterpillars have begun appearing – and creeping out lots of Tri-State Area homeowners.

As CBS2's Dick Brennan reported, the caterpillars can also kill the trees they breed in.

New mom Ilka Ramirez loves nothing more than to sit with her infant son, Nicholas, under the big oak tree in their front yard. But she shudders to get too close this year.

"Basically, we're being eaten by caterpillars that are, you know, eating all the leaves on the tree," said Ramirez, of Patchogue. "It's disgusting. They're constantly like coming down and spindling down and stuff, and you're constantly walking into their little webs. It's crazy."

Experts said the return of the gypsy moth caterpillar infestation was prompted by a mostly dry spring. The lack of rain kept a tree fungus that usually kills off the caterpillars from growing.

Now, the caterpillars are creeping all over trees in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island.

It is actually when the gypsy moths are in their caterpillar stage when they do the most damage to the tree, since they chew up so many leaves.

"It will defoliate the tree completely," said certified arborist Evan Dackow. "If the tree doesn't have leaves on it, then it can't produce carbohydrates; it can't produce oxygen, and repeated defoliation will actually kill a tree."

Dackow said he has been extremely busy spraying trees with pesticides, in hopes of cutting down on the persistent pests before they reach their next stage.

"A few weeks later from now, they're going to emerge as moths, and then their sole objective, which is just to come out, breed, lay their eggs for the following year," Dackow said.

Ramirez said she intends to have her trees sprayed next week.

"I'm hoping we don't lose the tree completely," she said. "Because, you know, we love this tree and the fact that it gives shade to us."

The state has already turned to spraying on Long Island, because of infestations in both Connetquot State Park and Heckscher State Park.

If you are worried about the environment, there are also organic pesticides that can keep the gypsy moth caterpillar from taking over your property.

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