Caterpillars feasting on oak and other hardwood trees are defoliating wooded areas and backyards across the state.
Heather Faubert, a plant specialist at the University of Rhode Island, attributes this year’s infestation to a drought last May. She said diseases usually keep caterpillar numbers low.
“But when we had the driest May on record, those diseases weren’t spread until it really started to rain. And by that time, the caterpillars had advanced, matured, and then those females laid eggs,” said Faubert.
Those eggs survived over the winter.