UPPER TOWNSHIP – The township will once again seek state funding to spray for gypsy moths next year.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture performs gypsy moth egg mass each year in communities throughout the state and then sprays the following spring when it is deemed necessary. The state has paid 50 percent of the cost to spray for the insects in the past, though that is dependent on federal funding, township engineer Paul Dietrich said last week.

Upper Township is usually included in the state’s spray program, though the number of acres affected by the gypsy moth has dwindled. The issue still draws attention from Upper Township Committee members, however.

“About 15 years ago we had an incredible outburst of gypsy moths,” Mayor Richard Palombo said at the Nov. 21 Township Committee meeting. He said the committee decided that year not to spray. “It was probably the worst mistake we could have made.”

The township participated in the program earlier this year, with the state spraying an 88-acre area where Woodbine Road and Steelmantown Road intersect. The state picked up half of the $4,500 cost.

Dietrich said the most recent Department of Agriculture survey identified an area along Route 49 near Head of the River and Woodbine with gypsy moth eggs. The area sprayed in 2016 will not need to be done next year, he said.

He said residents ask about other types of caterpillars, but they are mostly bagworm moths.

The state’s 2016 gypsy moth spraying program targeted 20,354 acres in 27 municipalities in Cape May, Salem, Hunterdon, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties. That was up from just 288 acres the year before.

To qualify for the spray program, a residential or recreational forest must have an average of more than 500 egg masses per acre and be at least 50 acres in size. A single egg mass contains up to 1,000 eggs, according to the state.

Gypsy moths defoliate trees, and can kill them after two or three years. Gypsy moth defoliation can also make trees more susceptible to other damage that can lead to the death of the tree.

Oak trees are the preferred host for gypsy moths, but the caterpillars can be found feeding on almost any tree in the vicinity.

Township Committee unanimously approved a resolution saying it is interested in participating in the gypsy moth spraying program next year.