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Not a bad year for gypsy moth caterpillars in Guelph but city is monitoring

Dozens of gypsy moth caterpillars were found inside a hollowed-out tree trunk in Guelph's north end.
Dozens of gypsy moth caterpillars were found inside a hollowed-out tree trunk in Guelph's north end. Matt Carty / Global Guelph

The City of Guelph says it is monitoring the population of the gypsy moth caterpillars as other parts of Ontario deal with an outbreak of the invasive critters.

They have the ability to attack a tree in the hundreds, eating all of its leaves and eventually killing it.

Read more: Invasive gypsy moth has Port Franks residents and Lambton Shores mayor at odds

It’s not a bad year in Guelph, but it’s not a great year either, according to the city’s manager of park operations and forestry.

“We haven’t experienced significant damage to trees or losses,” Gene Matthews said in a phone interview. “It’s here, just not in large doses that we’re seeing in other municipalities.”

Gypsy moth outbreaks usually cycle every seven to ten years and during that cycle, the population can remain high for two to three years, but Matthews said it’s difficult to tell if the current population is on its way up or down.

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So for now, the city is just monitoring the situation.

“Should we see things increase over the next year we may change our approach from a monitoring point of a view to a managing point of view,” Matthew said.

He said that could include setting up traps and spraying trees with an approved chemical.

Gypsy Moth caterpillar infestation strips trees of foliage across Peterborough County
Gypsy Moth caterpillar infestation strips trees of foliage across Peterborough County

Residents can email the parks and forestry department to report sightings on public property, which will then be documented by a worker.

When it comes to trees on private property, Matthews said residents can purchase traps and sprays at a hardware store or call a qualified arborist to deal with an infestation of caterpillars.

Guelph is also having a rough time with emerald ash borer, another invasive species, and was forced to cut down more than 800 trees in Preservation Park earlier this year.

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Read more: City of Toronto braces for return of European gypsy moths this spring

But Matthews said the two outbreaks are not the same.

“Not the same impact just yet,” he said. “We’ll be monitoring it more closely as the next couple of years come to us.”