New Jersey and Pennsylvania are seeing their worst invasion of damaging Gypsy moth caterpillars in nearly two decades, it was reported Sunday.

The caterpillars have stripped nearly 1.6 million acres in the two states in the last three months, leaving bare an area the size of Delaware, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The devastation, now prone to greater fire risk, looks like something out of a science-fiction story, said Ed Lempicki, chief of the New Jersey Forest Service.

Lempicki flew over an expanse in Monmouth County where caterpillars stripped every leaf from 200-year-old oak, yellow poplar and sugar maples with two- to three-foot diameter trunks.

"Caterpillars were crawling everywhere, all over the trees and buildings," he said. "Now, instead of these gorgeous trees, you have great big dead monstrosities that have to be taken down."

State agencies are debating whether they should have used stronger poisons, and local lawmakers want federal funding to combat the caterpillars, the newspaper said.