DEM has no plans to spray against gypsy moth caterpillars

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s environmental agency sent out a warning Friday to expect large populations of caterpillars — the larvae of gypsy moths — statewide this spring.

“While a nuisance, the caterpillars do not pose a public health threat and will eventually die off naturally,” said the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Gail Mastrati in a news release.

“While a nuisance, the caterpillars do not pose a public health threat and will eventually die off naturally.”

Despite the expectation of defoliation — caused by the caterpillars and moths eating away at tree leaves — the state isn’t planning to spray against the caterpillars because pesticides can hurt the environment and be harmful to insects and wildlife. “The vast majority of the state’s impacted tree canopy is expected to recover,” Mastrati said.

Thursday, House Minority Leader Rep. Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick, made a public appeal to Gov. Gina Raimondo to take action against the critters. In a letter, she asked for a plan to be developed immediately to save woodlands.

Experts tell Eyewitness News caterpillars eating away at leaves for two or three years in a row can kill the plants.

The DEM recommends homeowners contact a licensed arborist with a state pesticide applicator’s license in order to treat infestations at the garden level.