By / Blair Crawford
Gypsy moth caterpillars are munching their way through Eastern Ontario forests this summer in numbers not seen in 30 years, stripping leaves from sugar maples, oaks and evergreens so quickly you can almost watch the forest canopy disappear.
“Our forests are under attack here in Eastern Ontario,” said Jim McCready, a forester and arborist with nearly 50 years experience. “We had the forest tent caterpillar. Now we’ve got the gypsy moth. And you’ve got the drought. We’re getting hammered.”
McCready, past president of Eastern Ontario Model Forest, a non-profit agency that helps protect and manage the region’s forests, said this year’s gypsy moth hatch is as bad as the past peak of the destructive pest in the late 1980s. The outbreak stretches in a belt across the region from Belleville to Bancroft and even as far north as Mattawa, he said. Gypsy moths are always present in the region, but foresters were caught off guard by how severe this year’s infestation has become.