Invasion of the Very Hungry Caterpillars

The very hungry caterpillars ate most of the leaves in the author’s woods

Two weeks ago I came to our West Virginia cabin to see the ground covered with caterpillars. These were spongy moths (formerly called gypsy moths), and they were invasive. Few natural predators, hardy and resilient, they survive and thrive by their sheer numbers.

Even as I stepped out of my car and walked toward the screened-in porch, I heard them, but I didn’t know it was them. It just sounded like the gentle patter of a light rain. But it wasn’t rain. It was caterpillars in the tops of my trees, dropping bits of fresh, chewed leaves onto the ground, as well as the digestive products resulting from leaves (i.e., poop).

Spongy Moth Destruction

West Virginia has been battling spongy moths for a few years now. We’ve owned our cabin for two years, and last year all I noticed were these weird white blobs about the size of a raffle ticket on the trees and the occasional moth. This year, populations were predicted to be very high in the area of Cacapon Mountain in Morgan County, and that’s what we’re seeing. Many properties in my neighborhood have the same level of defoliation we have or worse. They love, love, LOVE our oaks so much! They literally love them to death. And because our oaks are right next to some pines that they like a bit, they’ve loved those to death too.

Aerial suppression