The Chinese say this is the Year of the Dragon.
With the mild winter we’ve had, entomologists will tell you this is the year of the tick…mainly because you can count on their eggs hatching sooner.
Based on the evidence in the yard – I’m going with the Year of the Bagworm. Normally, we don’t see these silken sacks develop until late May, early June – it’s March 2012, and the caterpillars are already defoliating their hosts.
Honestly – just talking about it, just seeing the sacks – makes me feel like they’re crawling all over me.
Camping out on an island in Boston’s Harbor when I was younger – we set up camp at night…no tents, only sleeping bags and a tarp. We had no idea the tree we’d tied-to was completely covered with bagworm nests up in the canopy…Near sun-up, I woke feeling something trying to crawl in my ear…and as I sat up, head brushing the underside of the tarp – it rained caterpillars…onto the caterpillars already covering our sleeping bags. It was a horror film.
I’ve always tried to ignore them – but after some research…not getting rid of them only makes the situation worse next year…especially after a mild winter.
Here’s the deal…those caterpillars – the males eventually become the black furry moths you see flying around in mid-September…they’re flying around looking for infested trees where they find the females, who (and this is according to the University of Missouri Extension) lack eyes, antennae, wings, legs, or functional mouth parts. They lack functional mouth parts – is this not the ideal female companion? Oh wait, it goes on – She is maggot-like in appearance, soft-bodied and yellowish…okay look, they’re gross.
The moth and the female mate – she lays 500-1000 eggs into a winter-proof bag you’ll have trouble even finding…and then they’re all over the place next Spring.
I’ve tried to find something that describes the benefits of these insects, and all I can find is – they’re food for woodpeckers. Well my place is covered with both woodpeckers and bagworms – so there’s some unexpected truce in the Food Chain.
How do you get of ‘em? There are pesticides and sprays – but most recommend cutting the bag down and destroying it; which means I get to relive a nightmare of my youth…and hope that while lopping a silken, caterpillar covered limb, I don’t drop it on my head and cover myself with eggs and larvae – like may of us have done unwittingly in the past while mowing the lawn.
So listen – if you hear screams coming from my burn barrel today – it’s just the bag worms. I’m putting on a show – a fiery display of might – for laughing ticks – in this, the Year of the Dragon.