On 30/4/2003, email@example.com wrote: >Tent caterpillars are proliferating Funny thing about that, I was just noticing over the weekend that we may be in for a bumper year either this year, or more likely it's the start of a build up for the next couple of years. My little apple tree usually gets one or two nests--this year it's got 9, and the bitter cherry has at least 3 or 4, when it's never had any (well, not in its 5 or 6 years of life). None on the hawthorns yet, but it's early days. In town, we get the western tent caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum pluviale Dyar. Orange and black. If you get bluish ones, it will be the forest tent caterpillar, Malacosoma disstria Hubner >I know when I was a kid in Michigan tent caterpillars were very common (at >least in some years) They cycle here, too. I've heard that it's supposed to be a 7-10 year cycle, but I haven't seen a real peak since the early 80s, when they were absolutely everywhere. Couldn't even walk down the sidewalk without squishing them when they hit the crawling stage. And out in the woods of Bothel, they were even more dense. Truly impressive, kind of like "The Birds" with a creepy crawly villain :-)). The year after that they were noticeable but not exciting, and the year after that, almost a total population crash. Since then, I always find 'em here and there, but not worth mentioning. >I'm wondering what course of >action, if any, people suggest taking with them. Break open the webs to make it easier for predators to get them. (The adult moths are apparently more edible though.) Clip off the twigs with the nests. Some people use torches to burn them out, but that's a little dicey. Or, if it's a mature healthy tree, ignore them, because 'most any healthy tree can stand to be defoliated from time to time. Pesticides are counterproductive, because the primary control is a tachinid fly, which unfortunately many people think is a house fly and so kill them too. So if you see more than normal flies that don't quite look like house flies, thank 'em kindly and send them on their way! It's irritating , but I haven't found the species name, or even the genus, for 'our' tachinid. All of the general articles just say tachinid (but there are 1300 species in NA, all parasitoids) and the more tachinid specific sites talk lots about species, but not in conjunction with our tent caterpillars. Ah well, maybe a better google search will turn up something. Meanwhile, there are lots of images at google, and a good general tent caterpillar site <http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/inse003/inse003.htm> which is especially to be commended for this paragraph: "Benefits of a caterpillar outbreak can be numerous in a natural setting. While caterpillars are distasteful to most birds, some birds feed on them. When alders and other trees are defoliated, the shrubs and trees below receive increased sunlight, giving some of them a boost in growth. The eaten leaves pass through the caterpillar's body and emerge as little pellets which can break down easily, returning nutrients to the forest floor. Pupae provide nutritious meals for small mammals, and moths are eaten by birds and bats." -- Allyn Weaks firstname.lastname@example.org Seattle, WA Sunset zone 5 Pacific NW Native Wildlife Gardening: http://www.tardigrade.org/natives/ "The benefit of even limited monopolies is too doubtful, to be opposed to that of their general suppression." Thomas Jefferson
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