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Gypsy moth boom unlikely to kill many trees, but very likely to gross you out

It’s going to be a big summer for the invasive gypsy moth. Three consecutive droughts have created ideal conditions for gypsy moth caterpillars to multiply.

Over the next few weeks, those caterpillars will be doing what they do best: feasting on the leaves of hardwood trees. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that could lead to heavy defoliation in outbreak areas. 

James Wieferich is forest health specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Gypsy moths did major damage to Michigan trees in the 1980s and 1990s until the state started treating trees with a fungus that killed gypsy moth caterpillars. The fungus has a harder time releasing spores in dry weather, which helped contribute to this year's gypsy moth boom. 

Wieferich says that while the increase in gypsy moth caterpillars may lead to unsightly leaf loss, it's unlikely to kill healthy trees these days. They do, however, create a big headache for residents living in areas of an outbreak. Hungry caterpillars release frass — or droppings — onto humans and cars from the trees above, and crushed caterpillars can stain driveways.

Check out the slide show above to find out more about these pests, and what to do if you live in an area with a gypsy moth outbreak.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Isabella Isaacs-Thomas.

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