Good Year for Caterpillar Growth
Caterpillars are a docile, and calm creatures, but in Southern Arizona, they’ve aggressively began to take over the desert. Most caterpillar species are solitary, but tent caterpillars are an exception. They gather in communities and build their white, silky, camps in between tree branches. Each cocoon-like home houses many of the caterpillars, and in Southern Arizona, these little guys have completely taken over in the insect world. The number of tent caterpillar homes all over southern Arizona deserts and forests is astonishing. Scientists say it’s like walking into a “science-fiction movie.” These guys have a strong appetite for tree leaves, and anything green. Many of the local residents have been freaked out and begun to worry about just what this invasion may mean to them and their community.
John Palting of the University Of Arizona Department Of Entomology describes the general feeling among the local residents of Southern Arizona. “A lot of people are creeped out by it – but it’s just caterpillars and a bunch of silk and caterpillar poop.” The white tents also have dark spots in them, which are just caterpillar poop, but all together these silk tents are giving local residents the creepers.
Palting seems quite unbothered by this natural phenomenon but some of the residents have mixed-feelings about the caterpillars and their sci-fi looking homes. “They are kind of cool and kind of creepy, all at the same time,” says Pamela Selby-Harmon, officer in charge of the post office in the mountain village of Summerhaven. She also describes it as “… one of those love-hate relationships. You love the caterpillars, but you don’t like the damage to the trees. But Mother Nature has a lot more going on than we do as far as planning.”
Mother Nature’s Future
How will the unusual amounts of caterpillars and their tents affect the environment? Only Mother Nature knows for sure, but Palting shares his thoughts on how the environment will deal with this “sci-fi” situation.
“The tents will probably break down with the summer rains and be pretty much gone by mid-summer.” For other wildlife, “the population generally means that the parasites will also have a good year and take the population back down. Such are the checks and balances of nature,” he says.
In regards to Madame Selby-Harmon’s concerns about the trees, Palting states, he “[hasn't] seen it where they kill a tree. They take the first crop of leaves, and the trees leaf out again.” So thankful it looks like the trees may survive the invasion.
So thankfully Mother Nature seems to have this caterpillar invasion under control, and it looks like there will not be an apocalypse anytime soon for fellow residents of southern Arizona.
Author Bio: Heydi Ruelas is a journalism student and blogger for Bulwark Exterminating, an industry leader in providing high quality pest control service. When I’m not playing with my two adorable nieces, I’m on the tennis court chasing that little green ball around.