Digging the Learning Curve: Doing the Caterpillar Stomp

Digging the Learning Curve: Doing the Caterpillar Stomp

Last year, we noticed that the trees on a small mountain just across the Willowemoc Creek looked dead. Although there were plenty of trees with leaves on the other mountains, something had happened. Our favorite waitress, BJ of the Famous Roscoe Diner, explained that they had been devoured by "gypsy moth" caterpillars. Now I don't particularly like the name "gypsy moth." It's clearly a racist name meant to demean the Roma people. So let's call them by their proper name: Lymantria dispar. The Lymantria dispar have been known to denude whole forests. The caterpillars climb up tress and eat the leaves. When the tree has no more leaves, they move onto the next tree. I noticed that the tree destruction seemed to be moving in our direction. I also saw numerous trees that had visible caterpillar tents hanging off their branches. I took this as a sign that I needed to marshal my forces and begin to combat the munching beasts. I began with a campaign of slash and burn tactics. This spring, when I noticed a few of the tents in my own yard, I snipped off the offending areas and gleefully put them into the fire I was tending. But this was not enough. Just beyond my reach, other tents were beginning to show themselves. I resorted to chemical warfare. I bought wasp spray with a jet of poison that the can claimed could spray up to 26 feet away. I hung out of windows and even climbed onto the roof and at least five more tents were sacked by the burst of deadly technology. The cans ran out quickly and I soon found that other tents were growing well out of my range. Simultaneously, the dreaded caterpillars began to descend on my garden. Last year they attacked my rose bush and ate all the foliage. It was time to engage them in hand-to-hand combat. Actually it was more like foot-to-body. I began doing the caterpillar stomp. Any that I saw, I smooshed. I flicked them off the house, grabbed a broom and whaked at them, I plucked them off my plants three times a day, I sought out the cocoons, dashed them to the ground and stamped on them, and I even began running the crawling targets over with the car whenever possible. I began to notice that clouds of flies arrived after a few days of zealous squashing. I assumed that the flies were there to eat the remains, but once again BJ the waitress set me right. According to her the flies are tachina flies, or simply "tachinids" which were released a few days ago to help control the population of caterpillars. They lay their maggots on the pupating moths and the maggots feed, killing the pupa in the process. Charles and I brought this helpful information to the farmer's market. Each stand was besieged by flies, so I tested my new knowledge out on each vendor. At the bakery, I got a positive response. "Then we will love the flies," said the owner of the Flour Power Bakery. "I just wish that there were fewer to love." The friendly vendor of smoked trout, artisan cheeses, jams, and desserts said, "I'd rather just squish the bugs with my feet. Forget the damn flies." The woman who runs the large organic farm stand was more philosophical. "These things come and go in cycles. You can't control it." On our way back home, I continued my personal campaign of caterpillar destruction, one or two bugs at a time. Charles had absolutely refused to get involved in the killing spree. He is a dedicated pacifist and not all that interested in the "outdoors." But as we walked home, he discovered that the thickness and frequency of the caterpillars meant that he too had killed a few, just by walking the mile home. Good, I say. Now I've discovered that there were two enemies. The famous Lymantria dispar moths and tent caterpillars. They both eat trees and everything else they can, but they are two different things and the Catskills are now suffering from an abundance of both. The caterpillar stomp goes on. At least now I know what I'm killing. --
I made the best out of a rainy day

I made the best out of a rainy day

first post :)

first post :)

The Mesclun Jungle

The Mesclun Jungle

GardenshowTime!

GardenshowTime!

Rambler with dahlias

Rambler with dahlias

Butterflies

Butterflies