THE VANISHING CANOPY – PURE HELL

My son was here last week, mowing the yard. Hosing down the house in a futile attempts to clear it — at least temporarily — of caterpillars. It was pointless, but we have to try and fight back.

The subject of this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “PURE.” We are certainly having a pure experience here. Pure horror. A living nightmare. The 30-year peak gypsy moth plague.

Everything is covered with hairy, toxic caterpillars. The house. Both cars. The dogs don’t want to go out. Their feet get stung as they try to walk through the grass.

The disappearing canopy ...

The disappearing canopy …

Many of the oaks are stripped of leaves. I took these pictures the day before yesterday. The situation is worse today. I can’t bring myself to go outside, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The caterpillars eat the oaks from the top down. Some are fully defoliated from top to bottom. Others have a some leaves remaining on lower branches.

Not all of the trees will recover. Some will simply fall over. The healthy ones will grow new leaves after the caterpillars morph into ugly brown moths. It’s going to be an interesting year for the electric company when the trees start falling.

It will be the middle of August before we start to see the end of this horror show ...

It will be the middle of August before we start to see the end of this horror show …

This invasion is the price we are paying — at least in part — for having had an easy winter. Without the prolonged, bitter cold to kill the eggs, you get this.

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It will be weeks before the siege lifts. My personal nightmare, writ large.

The trees against the cloudy sky are weird and naked. When it is quiet and there’s no traffic noise or wind, you can hear the sound of millions of gypsy moth caterpillars chowing down on our trees.

Stephen King couldn’t write a creepier story. Garry, who is not particularly afraid of bugs, is finding this hard to deal with. On top of that, it turns out he is allergic to them — a common enough condition that it has a name.

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Gypsy moth caterpillar poisoning. After Garry came in from taking pictures — and sweeping them off the cars, his arms were covered by raised welts. I looked it up and other than the usual stuff you do about allergic reactions to insects, the suggestion is — are you ready? Avoid gypsy moth caterpillars.

Why didn’t we think of that?

Home in September

When the trees had leaves

I think I’m holding up pretty well, all things considered.

WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: PURE 

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

 



Categories: #Photography, Nature, New England, Trees, woodland, Woods

Tags: , , , , , ,

32 replies

  1. So much for mild winters…. Hope the horror show ends for you all soon. XO

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  2. Gaah – you didn’t heed my warning not to open the door! It’s a wonder you survived to write this post. What nasty little critters. We only have spiders – and the occasional ant.

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  3. Can they spray for them? That isn’t the nicest of ideas but I have no idea how else to deal with them.
    Leslie

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    • Yes, they can. And there are specifally targeted bio agents that attack ONLY gypsy moth larva and eggs. It’s a disease which only affects that one species and it is proving effective. It’s available (I believe) through our Department of Agriculture and I’m pretty sure, yours too … only Canada has a sepcific department dedicated to pest control. It’s a lot better a solution than poisons which have a way of causing a lot of collateral damage to other animals and plants. They are getting more sophisticated at handling this … and it’s such a major pest, that they really need to come up with some effective things to stop it — while we still have trees!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How awful, Marilyn! Makes my skin crawl just reading about it and the devastation to the trees is terrible. Although we had a mild winter here, too, the only thing that seems to be worse is allergies. People like having a mild winter, but I’d rather have a good strong one that kills what needs to be killed!

    janet

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  5. Nice photos…….!

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  6. These photos (and Garry’s yesterday) totally give me the creeps. This is wild, Marilyn….although there is no need for me to tell you that. Down here in NW Florida, we have roaches and then flying roaches, but your moths……I don’t think I could handle that.

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    • I can’t handle it either, but this is a perfect example of how we deal with stuff because we don’t have a choice. Short of crawling under the bed and curling up in a ball to suck my thumb, what choice is there? Really? They came. Now we do the best we can to get through it.

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    • Lois, I don’t easily creep out unless you’re talking about snakes. But this caterpillar thing is nasty. I still have the welts and bites from the day before yesterday. I have to go out grocery shopping and am not a happy guy.

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  7. I assume you don’t get this every year, your usual nasty winter kills off the eggs? I guess there’s nothing left to do but wait for them to turn into moths and hope they lay this year’s eggs somewhere else…
    It’s awful being trapped in your house by these nasty little things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a turf tech guy coming over. If we can in any way afford to fight them back away from the house, that will make life livable. Right now, we are stuck in the house until … August maybe? That’s a long time. It’s only been a week and we’re already going a bit crazy.

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    • Dral, it’s pretty bad and no longer humorous.

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  8. May I just say “Ugh! most heartily?

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  9. In South Dakota, it was grasshoppers. I remember sliding off the road there were so many grasshoppers that had been run over that the roads were slippery. They caked the windshield and I used an entire huge bottle of 4711 cologne I’d just bought to dissolve the little corpses enough to scrape them off the windshield so I could see to drive. The last such plague had been when my father was a young man.. probably 50 years before.

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    • Yes, another natural pest. We get cicadas here every 7 or 8 years.

      The problem with these guys, aside from being nasty little buggers, is that they have few natural enemies. They were brought in from Europe by some French guy who thought they could make silk (they can’t). They destroy 15 million acres of hardwood trees every year and the number keep going up.

      And they are totally yucky. And hairy. Blech.

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      • What they call rainbirds here are cicadas. We get them every year before the rain but they aren’t really considered a pest. Just very very loud. I’d never thought about what they eat.

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        • On a “plague year” for cicadas, they eat everything. All the plants and a lot of the trees. But then they go away and don’t come back. In any case, they don’t completely defoliate entire forests — which Gypsy moths do … and so FAST. You can hear them eating. Talk about creepy.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like my gecko story — touring HI before I lived there, I was confronted one night by a gecko chirping above my head. Not wanting to have a gecko fall onto my head in bed, I looked for some way to get him out of the room — my only solution was to spray him with hair spray till he was stiff and fell off the ceiling. I took him outside — by morning he had disappeared! Love your story of using cologne on the grasshoppers (though it was a little expensive!).

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      • They were dead, encrusted on the windshield from having hit it. We needed something like solvent to dislodge them and the cologne was all I had. I had just bought a huge bottle of it–like a quart bottle–and yes it was expensive, but it was either that or drive blind or walk and we were on the highway between towns somewhere between Valentine Nebraska and White River South Dakota… nothing there but us, the dead grasshoppers and the cologne.

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        • A cautionary take for always having a role of paper towels and cleanser for emergencies? The paper towels we always have, but the cleanser? Usually I remember to bring some when we travel … except when i forget.

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  10. We are fortunate in Southern California that we don’t have such plagues! We are on the monarch butterfly flyway, but they don’t behave this way. My only experience with a similar infestation was in Central TX one year when I travelled on business. I went out to dinner, and found locusts in my food — they had apparently come in with restaurant guests (perhaps even with me?). I was on the motel’s second floor, and in the morning I was rather amazed that when I left my room I walked on a crunchy walkway — crunchy because it was covered by dead locusts! I hope your infestation comes to as sudden end as it began — and I hope that it doesn’t decimate your beautiful woods. In the meantime, umbrellas sounded like the best solution if there is no spray that can be used by your city!

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    • It won’t go away. The caterpillars, in about 2 to 3 weeks, will become brown moths who will lay a gazillion eggs. If left to hatch, and we have another mild winter, this next year, we’ll have a repeat and it will be worse.

      Gypsy moths are a non-native invasive pest accidentally introduced in 1869. The’ve spread across the continent. They eat hardwood — especially oak — so if you don’t have oak trees, you probably won’t get them.

      Locusts are natives. These guys are not. They’re the number 1 invasive pest on the Aggie department’s list. There’s stuff that can help contain them, but pretending they will go away — which is what the town is doing — is folly. They don’t go away. These aren’t a garden pest who ruin your roses. They defoliate entire forests. And they do it with breathless speed and efficiency.

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      • Sounds pretty nasty. We do have bark beetles in the pine trees — they attack drought-stricken and dying pines. And there are bugs that attack citrus — the county sprays for them with regularity if there are more than 2 found within a square mile or so!

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    • Slmret, it’s beyond annoyance. It’s bloody awful!!

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  11. To be fair to the town, there isn’t much they can do when something like this happens. We had a similar thing happen when I lived in Mississippi, but with cicadias: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/tech/science/environment/2011-05-11-cicada-great-southern-brood-13-years_n.htm.

    It was pretty awful, but as blech as it sounds, you just have to let nature take its course.

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    • There are things they should do to prevent reinfestation next year. Because gypsy moths are an invasive species. Not native and with few natural enemies. If they don’t do what they can to clean up the eggs they leave and we have another bad year. It WILL kill a lot of trees. One year of defoliation, trees will usually survive. Two? Even healthy trees may not make it. Three in a row is the death knell. Then you have acres of dead trees.

      If this were a naturally occurring thing, alright, let it roll. But this is a European moth that was “imported” and accidentally released. It kills more than 15 million acres of hardwood — usually oak — every year and has spread from Massachusett all over North America. A cautionary tale, yet we keep doing it. We don’t seem to learn quickly. Humans, I mean.

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