Fandango’s Flashback Friday — May 5th

It has been six years since the last attack of these tiny, hairy, hungry monsters but this is the time of year when they are developing. As long as it keeps raining, all is well but if suddenly, the rain stops, things could quickly change.

It had been 34 years since the previous attack. People had almost forgotten. When the caterpillars returned, memories came flooding back.

My son was here last week, mowing the yard. He also hosed down the house in a largely futile attempt to clear it of gypsy moth caterpillars. It was pointless, but we had to try to fight back.

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

Bare trees in late June 2016

Many of the oaks are entirely stripped of leaves. I took these pictures the day before yesterday. It’s much worse today. I can’t bring myself to go outside for any reason, so you’ll have to take my word for it. The ground is writhing with caterpillars. It’s horrible.

The caterpillars eat the oaks from the top down. Some are fully defoliated. Others have a few leaves remaining on lower branches.

Not all of the trees will recover. Some will simply fall over. The fruit trees die. So do pines. The healthy oaks and maples will grow new leaves after the caterpillars morph into moths. It’s going to be an interesting year for the electric company when the trees start falling. Worse, the odds are that they will be back next year. It’s usually a two-year run, but when it moves to three which it does sometimes, entire forests die. A whole species of oak trees was wiped out by them in the past.

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

This invasion is the price we are paying for an easy winter. Without the deep cold to kill the eggs, you get caterpillars.

Our own personal Gypsy Moth caterpillars

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’s quiet, no traffic noise or wind, you can hear the crunching of millions of caterpillars chowing down. 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 condition so common it has its own name.


Gypsy moth caterpillar poisoning.

After Garry came in from taking pictures — and sweeping the crawlies 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 I think of that?

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

Categories: #foliage, #Photography, Nature, New England, Trees, woodland, Woods, You can't make this stuff up

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13 replies

  1. Good grief, Marilyn, I’ve never seen anything like that. Funny you should mention about Stephen King, because as I was reading I was thinking exactly that – that this would make a good horror story! And with Garry being allergic to them too, what a nightmare. Love the advice though – how incredibly unhelpful! Have you tried some bicarb mixed into a paste with water? It might calm the welts and make him more comfortable.

    Anyway, it’s a shame there’s such a plague of them as individually they look quite sweet, but I can only imagine how you must feel being overrun with the things. I guess eventually they’ll turn into moths and fly away, but it must be pretty tough living with them all around you until then. Poor you.


  2. Alls I gotta say is, yuck!
    Not a fan! Xo


  3. We have aerial bug spray remedies for lesser infestations! This looks horrible!


    • We eventually coughed up the money and got private companies to come and spray at least the house and nearby trees. The town KNEW they were coming and refused to do anything about it. It hit our area the hardest, maybe because it’s mostly hardwood forest here and these caterpillars eat entire forests of oaks and maple, though they don’t mind scarfing down apple and peach trees either. If they run out of trees, they will eat pretty much anything green including crops in the field. It really WAS horrible. I still have nightmares about it.


  4. Sheesh, they’re everywhere. As Sadje said, it’s like a horror story.


    • They are especially horrible for people who have a serious aversion to creepy crawlies. These were the ultimate creepy crawlies and they were EVERYWHERE. This is the time of year when they hatch — or don’t. If it’s dry and sunny, they are more likely to hatch. So far, though, it has rained most of the month. We live in hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Seems like a scene from a horror movie


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