2017-06-08 / News

Feds: Remove caterpillars from vehicles before departing town

As campers and vacationers pile into town to enjoy the island’s pristine parks and shorelines, state and federal environmental officials are urging travelers to check their vehicles and equipment for gypsy moth caterpillars.

The infestation has led to the defoliation of thousands of acres of trees in the Northeast, but spreading the caterpillars to other areas will compound the problem. According to spokeswoman Gail Mastrati at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, there is a federal quarantine in New England and mid-Atlantic states that requires travelers to inspect, clean and remove caterpillars before leaving the outbreak areas. The caterpillars often attach to cars, campers, motorhomes, boats and patio furniture. The regulations apply to travelers if they leave the quarantine area, which includes Jamestown, so this invasive pest isn’t transported to locations that haven’t been infested.

In recent years, gypsy moth populations have been on the rise due to dry spring weather conditions. Aerial surveys and ground sampling in 2016 documented the defoliation of close to 226,000 acres of forestland. An outbreak of gypsy moth in the mid-1980s defoliated 411,000 acres of Rhode Island forestland.

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