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LETTER: Resident suggests people scrape caterpillar 'egg masses' off their trees

'If you do nothing, the caterpillars which hatch next year will get busy defoliating your trees, thus denying you shade during the hot days of summer,' says reader
caterpillars 2 2020-07-07
File photo

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Barrie citizens may have noticed an unusually large number of caterpillars dropping out of trees earlier this summer. More recently, there has been a plague of moths, and these have been laying egg masses on trees and also on other surfaces. In my neighbourhood, they seem to particularly like oak and maple trees.

It is a good idea for people to look for these egg masses now and scrape them off their trees. They are light brown, oval masses around 2cm long. Sometimes the pale grey female moth is still present above the egg mass, making it much easier to spot. (see the web site links below for photos) If you do nothing, the caterpillars which hatch next year will get busy defoliating your trees, denying you shade during the hot days of summer.

I was alerted to this problem on CBC Radio several weeks ago. I understood that brushing the egg masses off and onto the ground was sufficient; that the eggs would rot on the ground. Accordingly, I taped a small wire brush to the end of a long pole and set off up and down my street. This is a short street, with just 24 houses, so a complete tour took me just about one hour. I also rang several doorbells to talk to people, asking them to be alert to the problem.

Since then, I googled “Gypsy Moth” and found a number of web sites that recommend scraping off the egg masses into soapy water. These claim that eggs that fall on the ground can still hatch successfully. I have attached links to two web sites below.

At least ½ of the egg masses I removed would have been impossible to reach without my long pole. That also means it would have been impossible to catch the scrapings into a container of soapy water . . .

Whether I have succeeded in killing the eggs or not, I feel that I have probably reduced the numbers which will hatch next spring on my street. I urge all Barrie residents to get out there with your scrapers or brushes and pails of soapy water. I am sure all of us would like to keep our trees healthy and to enjoy a full canopy of shade next summer.

Peter Bursztyn