Sunday, May 19, 2013

Invasion of the Army Worms

The army worms or tent caterpillars hatched, millions of  'em. I figured they were a feast for birds, but they crawled like an army toward my house and then at lights-out in the guest room, about 2 a.m., I saw Pseudaletia unipuncta crawling all over my walls and carpeting. . . they kept advancing. . .I vacuumed up maybe 200 in all. Wondering where they found entry, I stepped outside, and the stoop and the door were PAVED with the crawly things (dropping thousands of black pinhead turds), and around my head buzzed a universe of wasps dive-bombing and eating them. Immediately I threw lime over the largest mass of worms, and then bleach, and then powdered my threshold with ground red pepper.

With a sigh I lay down in bed only to see one descending from the ceiling via a silken string. Grabbed it with a tissue. They spurt reddish-brown when crushed. (My kitchen floor looks like somebody cut an arm real good with a chef's knife.) The next morning I found a worm sharing my bed. (That's not a joke; that's literal truth.)

So shocked was I by the nighttime home invasion I didn't take many photos until this morning when I surveyed the battlefield with all the satisfaction of my ancestor Genghis Khan. Then I examined what these caterpillars had done to plants: skeletonized the leaves [see above photo], and they were still at it, so many thousands that their crunching and droppings are audible, like light rain.

When they find a suitable spot they begin growing white fuzz to cocoon themselves [photo at right], hoping to become moths in a little while. I have never ever seen an invasion of army worms like this. Their ranks also included true inchworms (thin green ones), and fat green caterpillars. I vow to fight them to my last pepper flake.

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