Thursday, May 2, 2013

Orcas Dreams 10: The Tent Caterpillars Have Arrived

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!


  1. Hey there! Here from the Blog Hop and I just liked your Facebook page :o) Hope you'll get a chance to visit my page; you can find me here:


  2. Oh Jess, that's super icky, huh? Some places it's frogs everywhere, some places it's butterflies. Dropping on my head would be too much for me.

    Jess, I always love your Dragonfly Mother blog. I keep current on it. Don't leave! I print things out from it, quote you...I love hearing about your life there. Please don't quit writing..I really look forward to each of them.

    Love you.

  3. Hey Jeaane! I wouldn't quit my blog, I'm just getting started!

  4. Gross. I would be totally grossed out - and the thought of slipping on squished nests - is - well - grotesque.


    I know they are part of the eco system - and they provide good stuff - but - nasty.

    It's annoying that they turn into moths. Sorry you have to deal with them.

    1. That made me laugh. Yeah, totally, gross! And now they are getting bigger and their nests look like big black bags hanging from the tree. UGHHHHHHH!