- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - State environmental officials say winter moth caterpillars are defoliating trees throughout Rhode Island.

The Department of Environmental Management said Wednesday that communities reported the emergence of millions of pale green winter moths in November and December.

State forester Bruce Payton says this spring those same communities are seeing what he calls an astonishing number of caterpillars defoliating trees.

They say deciduous trees including oak, maple, ash, basswood, elm, beech and fruit trees are affected. Leaves on affected trees are filled with small holes.

Researchers from the state, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Massachusetts Amherst released a fly that feeds on winter moths in early May. The public can report heavily defoliated trees to the department.

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