Woolly bear caterpillars seem to be everywhere these days – creeping across the lawn, along the road when I’m walking the dog, hidden in the wilted cut-back of the perennial garden. Last week I found a woolly bear curled up in a shoe I’d left on the front porch.
These fuzzy, black-and- brown-banded caterpillars seem intent these days to get somewhere. Where that is – and how they know – is a mystery. » Continue Reading.
Like a B-grade horror film, they’re back. Writhing en masse, draping cobwebs, and raining tiny “peppercorn” poop onto us, tent caterpillars have returned. Known variously as tent worms, army worms, and a host of other names not suitable to print, there are actually two species of tent caterpillars. » Continue Reading.
They hang around on finely spun strands of silky string; blue-black caterpillars parachuting ever-so-slowly to earth, landing in yards, crawling around on decks and porches; even finding their way into homes. Over the past few weeks, several people have asked me about them. Some have been coping with large numbers of them. And one person asked if they were the same worms that make their webs in apple trees.
They are not. They are similar, though. Both are hairy. Both are dark colored. Both grow from less than one-eighth of an inch to two inches or larger over a six to eight week period. And both are tent caterpillars. Beyond that, they’re clearly different. » Continue Reading.
Janet Hayward Burnham, of Bethel, Vermont, was driving to the bank one day when she saw a tree on the side of the road that looked like it was covered in decorative webbing, “cans and cans” of it, as if for Halloween. However, it was June.
Burnham is an illustrator, children’s book author, and writer of sweet (as opposed to sexy) romances and mysteries. She is, in other words, an intellectually curious person and she pulled over for a better look. From the sidewalk, she could see that the whole yard was covered in cottony webbing. Deep inside the webs were yellowish-white caterpillars with black heads. “I’d never seen anything like this in Vermont,” Burnham said. “Clearly, it was infested with something. What were they? Should we be concerned?” » Continue Reading.
Winter is not a season when many people think about tents, except maybe to be glad they do not live in one. I do have some friends who love winter camping, and the fact they have never extended an invitation is evidence of how much they value our friendship.
Oddly enough, winter is a crucial time to look for signs of forest-tent caterpillars (FTC). In spite of their name, FTC do not weave a silken tent-like nest like the eastern-tent caterpillar and other species of tent caterpillars. The tent-less lifestyle of forest-tent caterpillars makes it harder to spot outbreaks in spring. » Continue Reading.
The woolly bear caterpillar is the larval stage of the Isabella tiger moth, Pyrrharctia Isabella. The Isabella tiger moth overwinters in the larval stage. In the fall, caterpillars seek shelter under leaf litter or other protected places. They eat mostly weeds, including dandelion, clover, and grasses. Woolly bears are relative speedsters in the caterpillar world, crawling at a neck-snapping .05 miles an hour, or about a mile a day.
The woolly bear caterpillar — with its distinct segments of black and reddish-brown — has the reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather. According to legend, the wider that middle brown section is, the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a colder, snowier winter. Among a group of woolly bears, the stripes can vary greatly, making their forecast difficult to confirm; the same group of eggs can even hatch into caterpillars of varying dark and light bands. » Continue Reading.
Earlier this summer, my daughter persuaded me to bring home a monarch egg. I had misgivings. This wasn’t my first butterfly rodeo, and previous experience was discouraging. Two summers past, a friend gave us several black swallowtail caterpillars. One lived to adulthood, but all the siblings wasted away, taking on the form of burnt bacon gristle.
On the plus side, this time we’d be starting with an egg, and a new one at that. We had found it minutes after watching the mother butterfly flutter down into a milkweed patch. » Continue Reading.
Walk through a hardwood forest this month and it may seem more like October than July. Trees that normally provide cool shade have bare crowns with just a hint of green. And is the bark on that sugar maple moving? This is not a trick of the light: you are, in fact, in the middle of a forest tent caterpillar outbreak.
Despite the name, forest tent caterpillars don’t actually build tents like their cousins the eastern tent caterpillars. Instead, you’ll find them congregated on silken mats on tree trunks or branches. If you’re in an infested area, they won’t be hard to find. Sugar maples and aspen are often the favorite host species in the Northeast, as well as birch, cherry, basswood, and ash. » Continue Reading.
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