- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - State environmental officials say an invasive species of moths have damaged significantly more foliage in southern New England this year.

Officials at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management say an aerial survey conducted in June found more than 27,000 acres were defoliated this year as a result of the winter moth caterpillar. That’s a tenfold increase from last year.

The moths are originally from Europe. They are ravenous eaters while caterpillars.

Repeated years of defoliation can severely damage trees. Commercial fruit growers have begun using chemical insecticides to prevent the caterpillars from destroying their crops.

It is not clear why the moth population is growing so rapidly. Officials say it is too late in the season to do anything about the moths.

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