In regards to tent caterpillars, I've been feeling quite sadistic these days. The little crawlers have arrived and we are trying to get rid of their nests. I was told about the outbreaks here on Orcas last year, which was apparently the worst year recordable. When Gary first arrived at our new home, he said they were every where, munching away on trees and eating every leaf in sight. By the time I arrived, in September, I could see the remanences of hundreds of cocoons all over the side of the house. Now, when I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to my kids, I find myself getting annoyed at the main character and want to yell at him to stop eating. Just stop it damn it! ;)
Tent caterpillars are known for decimating trees, particularly fruit trees. They work their way through the foliage one nice leaf at a time. One "tent", which has hundreds, if not thousands, of caterpillars in it, can defoliate as much as 20% of a young tree, which can make it sick and even kill it. We have about 20-30 tents hanging in our cherry blossom tree just outside of our house! Not only that, but you would hope that these little buggers, no pun intended, would provide us with a plethora of beautiful butterflies. Well, it ain't so! When they are finished with their metamorphosis, they become a brown moth. Now, I know all creatures of nature are beautiful in their own way, but it's too bad that these little suckers couldn't be a little more, hmmm, well, at least colorful.
Although, I have read, they have been known to help with the eco-systems in the forests in some ways, feeding birds and other small predators, providing nutrients to the soil with their droppings and deaths, I'm not too excited about their presence, they kind of give me the shivers and make me cringe when I look at their nests. There are just so many of them! It feels like I'm in Attack Of The Catterpillars or something. Also, I've even been told that when they do grow, they are out by the thousands, dropping from branches like rain pitter pattering our heads. One person even said that her deck got so slippery from walking on squished caterpillars that she had to be careful not to slip. Ew. I sincerely hope all that is an exaggeration, I'm sure I'll find out soon enough! Sigh. I suppose this is just one of the not so romantic parts about living in the country.
So what is our solution? Tent Caterpillar control (or perhaps just a futile attempt at control). If we see a tent, we cut down the branch and throw it in a bin to burn. My karma feels a bit threatened, I never feel good killing anything, but on the other hand, we're also trying to protect our baby trees. We have cherries, apples, plums, peach, pear and chestnuts; I'd like to at least attempt to keep them safe, and without using pesticides and other nasty chemicals too. Burning seems to be the Orcas preferred method of irradiation, either that or pesticides which is a big fat NO in our book. Anyway, if I start to get rained on by caterpillars, there is no doubt you will hear about it from me!