The Northeast District Department of Health released information on gypsy moth eggs in the area.
"There is no public health threat associated with this natural, temporary phenomenon," the Brooklyn, Connecticut-based department said.
Entomologists blame the drought for the surge of gypsy moths and officials from the department said they partnered with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven to release information to the public about gypsy moths and their eggs.
- Gypsy moth eggs started hatching the last week of April. These are small larval "instars" that are "ballooning" off of the trees and the wind is carrying them to multiple locations.
- A couple of weeks after the short ballooning stage, older caterpillars will settle into trees to feed, crawling up and down and eventually deforest the tree.
- There is a natural fungus with long-lasting spores located toward the bottom of the tree and soil. The fungus requires rain to germinate, infect and kill the caterpillars. Due to the drought, the state has not had enough rain the past two years to allow the fungus to germinate.
- This is a temporary phenomenon. It may take a while for nature to catch up, but there are good odds that the issue will take care of itself.
Reaction to Exposure
- Gypsy moth larvae (i.e., caterpillars) do not bite. They do have two types of hair (called setae) that they use to defend themselves which can create a stinging sensation. Reactions to these stinging hairs vary from mild to moderately severe itching with an accompanying rash, similar to contact dermatitis.
- The onset of discomfort is usually noticed within 8 to 12 hours after contact, often becoming more pronounced 1 to 2 days later. Most cases resolve in a few days or up to two weeks.
- Delayed hypersensitivity reactions sometimes result in irritation to the eyes, inflammation of the nasal passages, and shortness of breath. This is especially common in the case of airborne hairs of adult gypsy moths, or contact with clothes hanging on outdoor lines when the moth is locally abundant.
- Exposure to the larvae and hairs is more likely while the young larvae are “ballooning” or contact w/ the adults.
What You Can Do
- There are no state programs for spraying, so the department recommends that people with sensitivities limit their exposure.
- Rains are forecast for this next weekend (May 5 to 7). The state should start to see germination of the resting spores of the gypsy moth fungus. While there is usually notice the fungus hitting the older caterpillars as they move up and down the tree, it can affect the younger instars as well, providing optimism that the fungus will provide natural control of the gypsy moth caterpillars this year.
- If anyone has any medical concerns, check with your primary health care provider.