Winter Weather Advisory issued for West Michigan

Caterpillar invasions plaguing some Michigan homeowners

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The temperatures have been pretty warm in Michigan and it's causing a lot of things to sprout up, and not just plants.

Many people in West Michigan are dealing with insect invasions. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently put out a warning about forest tent caterpillars that like leaves from sugar maple, aspen and oak trees.

They're insects that arborists say are easily confused with gypsy moth caterpillars, which look similar and are also running rampant right now.

"They will just fall off in sheets and you can see the dead ones that have been disintegrating over the weeks," said Grand Rapids resident Tom VanWingerden.

VanWingerden is just one person on the southeast side of Grand Rapids dealing with the gypsy moths.

"When it's a real bad infestation they are just about everywhere," said Vic Foerster, a consulting arborist with West Michigan Tree Services.

Foerster says one way to tell the two caterpillars apart is in what they eat. Forest tent caterpillars prefer fruity trees and will build large web nests, while gypsy moth caterpillars prefer large shade trees like tall oaks.

That's bad news for people who live near them.

"It's almost like a never-ending battle," VanWingerden said. "We are out here every day killing thousands of them."

For many, it means putting sticky tape barriers on the base of trees and spraying the bugs with insecticide.

"Some people will even use a little soap and water in a mister to spray them off with," Foerster said.

If you have to, picking them off by hand is an option, but watch out for the white ares under limbs which are old egg sacks.

The good news about the bugs is that in a few few weeks the metamorphosis will begin.

"They'll develop into a cocoon, turn into a moth and the cycle starts all over," said VanWingerden.

Experts say the severity of the caterpillar infestations come in cycles. Even though this is a strong year, next year might not be as bad.

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1 Comment

  • Tom Brasser

    Could you follow up on this? The oak trees around VanWingerdens’ house are now totally defoliated. Encourage the city to address it?

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