Monday, May 16, 2011

No Campaign of the Army Worms on the Northwoods Front this Summer

About 10 years ago we hit the peak of the Tent Caterpillars or Army Worms as we refer to them around here.  You know the little worms responsible for the tent-like structures they weave into the branches of your trees just before they eat all the vegetation present in your yard -- yeah, those.

They arrive in cycles -- as near to the ten year mark as only they fill comfortable with.  They usually show up little by little during the years previous and years after their peak.  Since the late 1800's, according to an article published this March by the Duluth News Tribune, their arrival has been plotted in a range of 6 to 16 years.  John Myers continued in his report to say, "The last peak defoliation from the caterpillars, 7.75 million acres, occurred in 2001, with 7.3 million acres of forest defoliated in 2002. They were the largest such outbreaks in Minnesota recorded history."  This information was from Mike Albers, DNR forest health specialist for Northeastern Minnesota.

These worms can sometimes be so thick that when they trek across the roads their squished bodies cause the tires of vehicles to slip and slide.  The last peak year we would carry a little broom brush with us on the golf course here in Ely and brush a clear path to the hole so that we could putt.

The good news is that these guys are native species so other native species like "Friendly Flies" and parasites will increase at the same rate to knock down the population until the cycle eventually depletes.  Just like other caterpillars, their life-cycle moves through eating leave, transforming into moths, laying eggs, hatching and repeating...

Anyway, according to the experts, this is not the year, so 2011 should be relatively free of the slimy little visitors.  They are part of the Northwoods, part of what makes Ely UNIQUE.  It is good information to know, and that's why we're passing it on.  Thanks to Sam Cook, John Myers and the DNT as well as Mike Albers and the MN DNR for helping me with this info.

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