- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

BOSTON (AP) - After widespread gypsy moth defoliation last year, Massachusetts environmental officials are predicting another season of higher-than-usual caterpillar feeding this year.

Officials are encouraging property owners to survey trees to identify egg masses and begin scheduling a treatment process with a certified arborist or licensed pesticide applicator.

Egg mass surveys performed by foresters throughout the state indicate the likelihood of a higher-than-normal gypsy moth caterpillar hatch this spring.

Gypsy moth populations in Massachusetts have generally experienced cyclical patterns. But they have been controlled by natural factors including weather, natural and introduced enemies, and the resilience of Massachusetts forests to withstand defoliation.

Recent drought conditions, however, have limited the effectiveness of a soil borne fungus that has helped keep gypsy moth populations in check since the last large outbreak during the 1980s.

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