We had a wind last night, which meant that all the charming tent caterpillars on my neighbours' trees blew all over my yard. While I generally like my neighbours, I most emphatically do not like their tent caterpillars. This year I had finally cracked the code of the tent caterpillar, too: I BTKed the heck out of them. There were none on my trees this year. Well, none that lasted past the miniscule larva stage.
Then came that wind. That bad bad wind.
I went out this morning, unsuspecting, to water and inspect. As I trailed around with the hose, cleaning out bird baths and beds, I noticed them —
All over the place.
Horrified, I shook my fist at the trees they'd lived in prior to flinging themselves, via that fortuitous wind, into my yard for some wanton rioting. I sprayed a few with the JET function on my water wand. It was a pleasantly violent experience, but I realized that I couldn't very well blow every single caterpillar around to smithereens this way: Although my Constantly Showering Teen would probably say that I am a Obnoxious Water Nazi, I like to think that I am a Relatively Dedicated Water Conserver. Plus, spraying a gazillion tent caterpillars with the JET function might get a little silly after a while, not to mention all the holes in the soil as a result (did I mention that we have fairly intense water pressure?).
So I did the next best thing: I started squishing them. It was almost as satisfying as spraying them, but it also meant that I had to pull them off the leaves and fronds and flowers and ripening strawberries. Which was how I noticed the white spots on their heads.
Know what that means? That little white dot? It means that a parasitic wasp has laid its eggs on the caterpillar. Click here for a brief glimpse into this weird aspect of insect life (and be glad I didn't give you the first link I found on Google, which was, even by my standards, stomach-churningly gross).
Which led me into wondering what the whole cycle looked like. Well, other than really gross.
So I enlisted the assistance of FDPG, aka Indefatigable Caterpillar Squisher. "Let's put them in the aquarium and see what happens!" I said. Delighted at the idea of something so incredibly thrilling, she raced around the yard, capturing caterpillars with white spots on their heads.
Which was how we ended up with this.
Weeds and caterpillars.
A little soil.
Here's my Control Caterpillar. He doesn't have a white spot on his head, so he can show us the life cycle of a Non-Egged Tent Caterpillar.
FDPG doesn't know that I've introduced a Control Caterpillar.
We'll see how long it takes before she notices.
I don't think it'll take long, somehow.
She's keeping a very close eye on them.