Thursday, June 14, 2012

a western tent caterpillar spring

Caterpillar with Lady's Mantle.

Caterpillar on Peony Bud.

Holy kamoley!  Two months since I've last been here and posted. yikes.
And since then, the caterpillars have eaten up all the alder tree leaves.  They have a voracious appetite and there are zillions of them. (literally) (no kidding)  They've taken over Mayne Island.

After they finished eating the tree, they came down to the ground and spread across the garden congregating on all of their favourite plants.

munch, munch, munch, munch, no kidding again, the air was full of the sound of them munching away, really!  You could hear it, seriously.  Nature is fascinating.

There was a story about these tiresome caterpillars on the 6 o'clock news last night. Check it out!

Earlier this year, I posted some photos of the egg masses.....well, this is what happens when the eggs hatch.  I don't even want to think about how many of these guys would have been hatching had I not removed hundreds of those egg masses!

Newly hatched, in April, on a black currant bush.

In May, we cut piles of the new tents off the fruit trees and put them in the fire pit.

If we left them to sit there overnight, they'd start creating new big tent colonies on the pile.  crazy.

We set them on fire.  poor things.

See that white spot on the end of this guy.  It's the egg of a parasitic wasp or a fly (not quite sure which one) but anyway, it lays it's egg on the caterpillar and then when it hatches it feeds on the caterpillar's insides and eventually kills it.  gross! But I'm cheering them on (the parasites, I mean!) Nature has it all worked out.

A couple of tents on this plum tree got away on us so almost all the leaves have been eaten up.  Look at all those baby plums!  I wonder if they'll all ripen up nicely for a harvest in August. 

I noticed today that all those little white cotton candy-like things in the plum tree are cocoons! 

 The caterpillars are working on becoming moths soon and that's a good thing I suppose, for now.....since it means they'll stop eating everything.


Lady's Mantle is one of my favourite accent and filler flowers at this time of year.  
I love it's chartreusy green colour and it's airy feel and it goes so well with so many things but the caterpillars like it too, it seems.....every year presents me with new and unexpected challenges and looks like one of this year's challenges is how to make beautiful wedding arrangements with flowers covered in caterpillars?...who woulda' thought?!

I managed to get some nice flowers happening for a wedding I worked on recently, but it took a lot of extra effort, let me tell ya!  
Looks like soon I'll be pulling cocoons of my flowers and foliage too because after I saw them on the plum tree, I started seeing them on all sorts of plants, all over the garden. 
 So does this mean they'll become moths and lay eggs again and come back next year too?? (!!!) 
I was hoping this was the end of the cycle for another few years but with all these cocoons all over everything, I'm having some doubts.  We shall see!

1 comment:

  1. has anyone tried planting garlic or type of bitter herb around the trees.trying to find something that the trees would absorb in the root system therefore absorbson into the sap and leaves to make them taste yucky..example i tried sugar with a pine tree for pine beetles and they left the tree alone compared to all the other trees around.any ideas for this caterpiller,,,gonna try garlic it wont hurt the tree