Waning numbers

On June 24 I mentioned the near biblical invasion of fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea).  On June 29 I showed you pictures of the little furry beasts.  They were everywhere by then, raining down from trees like so much precipitation, falling from ceilings and ledges and any other perch as though the heavens themselves had opened up to release this plague.

My, how times have changed.

On July 4, Independence Day, I photographed my last fall webworm.  This insect represented one of many still scrambling about the patio but also showed the most tolerance for my invasion of its personal space.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) (202_0228)

That very same day I also captured images of the next stage of growth for this creature.  One such cocoon was hidden in a place easily accessible to both my eyes and my camera.  Several others could be seen tucked quietly in various nooks and crannies, but I found this one most available for a picture session.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) cocoon (202_0223)

They had numbered so many.  I therefore experienced a great shock when I realized they had stopped amassing the great army that seemed intent on visiting us.  Why?  I asked the same question, and I discovered the answer is one applied to a great many things lately… at least here in Texas.

You see, while nature saw fit to provide winter and spring weather most agreeable with these destructive little monsters, it promptly reversed course and offered forth a summer that did nothing but reduce their numbers in vast quantities.  All the rain, cooler than normal temperatures, and high humidity visited widespread death upon the still emerging caterpillars.  To their dismay, it seems only the first wave survived.

Ten days later—yesterday—when I stumbled upon the first emergent adult from these creatures, I finally understood there would be no further incursion.  The days of the fall webworm had come and gone almost as quickly as the cicada-killer wasps.  A strong showing at the beginning of the season failed to save them from an undeniably more powerful foe—Mother Nature.  While they might be a part of her production, they represent a tiny fraction of her attention.  She has no problem stepping all over their great showing in order to advance her own agenda.

Nevertheless, I want to share these adult photographs taken yesterday.  Many of these snowy moths now permeate the air and area around my patio.  And more of them are sure to come, for more of them remain in their cocoons as they await their own maturation.

A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0392)
A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0397)
A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0400)

[one might easily confuse the adults of this species with the Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica); one would be wrong in doing so; we have seen innumerable fall webworm caterpillars, but one thing we’ve not seen at all is Virginia Tiger Moth caterpillars]

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