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Oakleaf caterpillars defoliating region’s trees

The Virginia Department of Forestry has announced that the oakleaf caterpillar is causing tree defoliation in parts of the region. Ken Sterner, VDOF’s senior area forester, said the agency has received several calls in recent weeks from homeowners in Gloucester and Mathews concerned about the issue. 

“The variable oakleaf caterpillar is the insect responsible for the defoliation in the Ware Neck and North areas,” Sterner said. “The defoliation is mostly occurring on the white oaks and water oaks.” He said areas around Richmond, as well as in Caroline and Spotsylvania counties, are also experiencing similar problems with the caterpillar.

According to Sterner, the variable oakleaf caterpillar is common throughout eastern North America. While it may attack a variety of hardwood trees, he said its preference is white oaks.

“Outbreaks occur periodically,” Sterner said. “Older larvae devour the entire leaf with the exception of the leaf...

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