Trees that are totally stripped of leaves, are now a common scene along Route 122 in Northbridge, Massachusetts.
“I haven’t seen it this bad in a while,” says Sonia Maguire, who works at Harbro Auto Sales and Service.
With at least 100,000 acres deforested, Hairy Gypsy Moth caterpillars are to blame.
“You can’t walk 2 feet without seeing about 10 of them just scattered here and there,” Maguire added.
From the window of her office she has watched the caterpillars devour everything in sight for weeks.
“You look up and it’s like, oh, where did all the leaves go?” she said.
During a normal summer, a certain fungus grows on trees to keep the insects at bay, but the ongoing drought means little fungus and open feeding for the caterpillars.
“In the evenings you can hear them crunching, it sounds like rain,” adds Michael Hare, of Sutton, Massachusetts.
“I priobably have 100 per tree just stuck below that grease and they’re kind of dying on the ground,” he explains.
Waste from the caterpillars also covers the ground in many areas.
“You can slip and fall on it, we had a jogger in front of our house slip and fall,” Hare recalls.
At least 100 thousand acres have been chewed by the critters in Massachusetts, according to officials at the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
That number may be closer to 150 thousand acres, but will not be finalized until aerial surveys are analyzed later this week.
Defoliation in Connecticut and Rhode Island can actually be seen in an image tweeted out from the International Space Station this week.
Nothing this widespread has been seen since 1981.
With no leaves on the trees now, officials also say the risk of wildfires is unusually high for this time of year. Fortunately, the worst is over.
Pods now clustered on area trees show the insects have started the transformation to moths.
Experts add that many of the now bare trees will sprout new leaves later this summer. The late regrowth may impact the color of our fall foliage, with more browns and yellows expected as compared to reds.