I said fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) had begun a nearly unprecedented invasion of Texas, or at least North Texas where I live. I even mentioned the virtual downpour of these caterpillars at xocobra and LD’s place, where they fall through the trees in such large numbers that it sounds like rain. They’re everywhere, something confirmed by the enormous infestation seen in Rick’s back yard as the tiny critters mass their attack and march unmercifully from limb to limb, tree to tree, until they have spun ethereal homes around every last bit of foliage.
And now they have arrived at the xenogere homestead.
Despite the unending rains that have prohibited me from getting out for walks at the lake lest I find myself mired in pits of mud and washed away by floods that don’t end, I have enjoyed witnessing a profound—dare I say biblical?—invasion of this caterpillar species. They now swarm about my patio en masse from the bushes to the tree, and I even found one today trying to worm its way through the closed doors that lead to the living room (they’ve yet to make their way to the bedroom doors).
This one scampered about the fence as though in a hurry for reasons I could not possibly understand. And oh how they scamper.
They are indeed fast little insects, what with all the legs involved in locomotion, and I had a terrible time trying to keep up with it as it rushed about in fevered passion to find yet one more leaf, one more branch, one more meal.
I chased it with abandon. Dozens of clicks of the camera yielded little presentable evidence of the pursuit, however, as too often I found myself in possession of images clearly showing painted wood with a bit of blurry creature in one corner or another.
Yet there it is for all the world to see, a fall webworm enjoying one of the few bits of sunlight we’ve seen ’round these parts in at least two months. How brief it was, too.
Now, much like what I witnessed at xocobra and LD’s place, not to mention Rick’s place, they rain down from my meager little tree like so much precipitation. Only a few moments ago I stood and watched more than dozen tumble to the ground from the ligneous outcroppings dangling above my head. They land, get their wits about them, and promptly climb to something higher than what the earth offers.
And they do these things in vast quantities.
At the family farm in March, though, I enjoyed seeing a large nest of these bottomless herbivores as they struggled to escape a fallen sapling. Similar to fall webworms in that they build web nests in trees, the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is larger and more colorful.
Mom worried terribly for her dogwoods, so an effort was undertaken to dispatch the horde. What I didn’t tell her at the time was that such actions are fruitless unless acted upon at the first signs of a colony. Otherwise, it’s too late.