(WETM) – A staggeringly high population of gypsy moths occurred in New York State this summer. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the high numbers caused noticeable leaf damage across the state.

The gypsy moth is an invasive species that was introduced to the United States from France in 1869. They were originally intended to create a strong silkworm breed that could benefit the silk industry. Since they escaped the species has invaded over a dozen U.S. states including New York according to the United States Forest Service.

Gypsy moth outbreaks reoccur in New York State every 10 to 15 years. The species is known to feed on the leaves of a large variety of trees but Oak is their preferred species. When gypsy moth populations are high like they were this past summer, thousands of acres of trees can be damaged.

Department of Environmental Conservation Forester, Rob Cole, advises residents to take precautions this fall.

“Private landowners are encouraged to survey their property and, for their management guidance, they can contact a private sprayer and have their property sprayed,” said Cole in an interview back in June. “In several properties out in the Finger Lakes, large landowners did treat their properties early this spring. That is when the treatment is most effective.”

The St. Lawrence Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management is advising the public to help reduce the population to avoid another serious outbreak next year. Residents can help reduce the gypsy moth population by looking for and destroying egg masses this fall and winter.

The gypsy moth egg masses look like light-brown fuzzy patches on tree trunks and branches, tires, lawn furniture, and other outdoor items. Egg masses can be destroyed by simply being scrapped off into a container of detergent and being disposed of.

More information on the gypsy moth species and how to combat the spread of the population can be found on the DEC website.