Expert: Trees healthier after rainy spring kills off gypsy moths

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WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Last year, gypsy moth caterpillars were responsible for defoliating more than half of all trees in Rhode Island. This year, a rainy spring has helped spread a fungus that is fatal to the insect, a local expert said.

Heather Faubert, a research associate at URI’s Plant Protection Clinic, said the state saw one of the wettest springs in the history of Rhode Island. In total, more than 11 inches of rain fell in the months of May and June alone.

As a result, Faubert said trees around the state are in much better shape than they were in 2016. Faubert estimates that “less than 10%” of trees in Rhode Island have been defoliated thus far.

“I don’t see many egg masses. I have seen a few egg masses that will hatch next spring, but nothing like we were seeing last July,” Faubert explained.

Still, Faubert said any amount of tree defoliation is abnormal and warned that a number of pests can still eat away at trees. The DEM will also take a closer look at trees later this week to get more exact numbers, according to Faubert.

“It should be unremarkable,” Faubert said.