The experts in the study of insects say that some of the first egg masses started hatching near Belchertown in the western part of the state Wednesday.
UMass entomologist Tawny Simisky says that one egg mass can have as many as 1,000 eggs.
Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and start to hunt for leaves to eat. They prefer oak trees, but they’ll also feed on maple, birch, poplar, and apple.
In large numbers, they are able to consume all of the leaves from one tree. It’s estimated that last year’s invasion damaged more than 350,000 acres in the Commonwealth.
Simisky says the gypsy moth producing caterpillar population had been reduced until last year’s drought.
If 2017 is as dry as the previous two years, a caterpillar-killing fungus will be killed and won’t be able to stop the spread this time.
Experts say homeowners can protect their bushes and trees by using natural insecticides that are not harmful to people or pets.