Connecticut caterpillar invasion is biggest outbreak in decades

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OLD SAYBROOK -- This is a story of hungry caterpillars. Everywhere. On the house. On the ground. Hanging in the trees.

"We noticed five or ten around the yard," said homeowner Gregory Grigoriou. "Next thing you know the car is covered, a couple dozen on the tires”

This is a big outbreak, for the second year in a row.

We’re not sure what triggers the outbreaks," said Kirby Stafford with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station."But we haven't seen this since the 70s and 80s.”

The caterpillars are harmless – but they do like to eat. You can see the buffet of half-eaten leaves on the ground, constantly falling from trees.

“You can actually hear the activity," Grigoriou said. "It sounds like rain.”

These hungry caterpillars could mean trouble. Look at these leaves – decimated – defoliated up and down – last year in the Connecticut River Valley, over 175,000 acres of trees - all thanks to the gypsy moth caterpillar.

So what could stop the very hungry caterpillars from making a hole-y mess?

“Pray for rain," Stafford said. "Do some rain dances.”

Rain now creates the gypsy moth fungus and that keeps the caterpillars in check.

“We don’t see outbreaks as frequently, as long as we get the rain in spring, early summer that’s needed for the fungus to propagate,” said Stafford.