GREAT RIVER - Long Island is seeing a rise in the gypsy moth caterpillar population due to the unseasonably dry spring.
Normally in mid-June, trees in Hecksher State Park would be filled with leaves and vegetation. However, over the past few weeks, thousands of trees have become bare because of the pests.
The gypsy moth caterpillars are said to be defoliating trees throughout Long Island. Certified horticulturist Evan Dackow says it's the worst he's seen since 1988.
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"I've seen an uptick in Northport, Smithtown, St. James, Bay Shore," Dackow says.
There is a natural remedy for the situation -- a fungus that can kill the caterpillars, according to Dackow. The problem, he says, is that the weather has been so dry, the fungus hasn't grown.
"With the lack of spores, there's no control of the gypsy moth population, naturally, so they've hatched," says Dackow.
Experts say the rainfall expected this weekend will help that fungus grow and help minimize the caterpillar population.
Once that happens, Drackow says the population can stick around for years.
A New York State Parks spokesman tells News 12 the department is "stepping up efforts to combat the highly destructive forest pest" by removing branches and spraying.