Home » Lakeville Journal Regional » Spongy moth attack made return in 2022

Eileen Fielding, center director of the Sharon Audubon Center, on June 17 stood by a stately oak at the society’s entrance that for two years has been stripped of leaves by spongy moth caterpillars. Photo by John Coston

Spongy moth attack made return in 2022

The Northwest Corner saw another damaging year of infestation by spongy months in 2022.

Hardwood trees were defoliated on a wide scale after a hard-hitting attack in 2021 by the invasive insect, formerly named the gypsy moth before a name change that recognized it contained an ethnic slur.

Thanks to a strong feeding and breeding season in 2021, when healthy egg masses were deposited across the region, the hatch in 2022 was extensive.

“The hatch is the biggest I have ever experienced. Only a week old and they are already stripping leaves off the white oaks, their favorite meal. The webs are everywhere,”  Bruce Bennett of Cornwall, the tree warden of Kent, said in May.

“Our 2021 state-wide egg mass survey, especially in northwestern Connecticut, showed large amounts of spongy moth egg masses, which leads us to believe there will be a continued hatch and extensive caterpillar activity in 2022,” said Dr. Victoria Smith, deputy state entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES).

Over the summer, whole hillsides turned brown, though by midsummer there were signs that many trees were getting a second wind and putting out new leaves.

Over 45,000 acres of forest in Litchfield County were defoliated by spongy moth in 2022, according to a recent tabulation by CAES. This followed a 40,000-acre defoliation in 2021 over much of the same area, centering on Sharon and Cornwall. Many of the trees hit hard by spongy moth two years in a row are likely to die.

Hardwoods most severely affected can generally regrow leaves once, although they become more susceptible to drought and disease. But the double punch is often fatal.

— Staff roundup

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