Friday, June 28, 2013

The Garden Horror Show Part 2: Caterpillar Update

** Those of a squeamish disposition, look away now ** 

   Meanwhile, back home, not all is rosy...
   It’s been a constant refrain with me, after coming from London to these rural American parts, “Nature always wins in the end”.   Let’s see. Slugs munching the petunias,  rabbits nibbling the daffodils, squirrels excavating bulbs,  bees drilling holes in the porch roof,  woodchucks digging tunnels,  turkeys stealing the blueberries, chipmunks stealing the  blueberries (and digging tunnels),  deer eating the rhododendrons, no, hang on, deer eating everything and mosquitoes biting my limbs off.  
   I thought I’d seen it all.   I hadn’t.  You see, with all those minor nuisances,  something can, in theory,  be done. There are nets, there are traps, there are sprays, there are high fences, there are invisible fences, there are slug pellets, there are dogs, there are, not to beat about the bush, shotguns.  Except in the possible case of the latter, none of these actually work very well but at least you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re  doing something, however pathetic.   It’s still a losing battle but you can put up a fight and somehow keep things going till the end of the summer.
    This is not the case with Gypsy Moth caterpillars.  As I wrote previously, we are in the midst of a plague,  one of such gargantuan proportions that even those poor saps in the Bible would quake at the sight of it.

The misery of a nearly-naked oak  tree
    Since I last mentioned it, things have only got worse. Having stripped the oak trees, they've moved on to the poplars.

Up we go, lads!
 Everywhere, they're shinning up trunks, tightrope-walking branches, hanging down like hairy mobiles from long threads and every last, sad leaf still clinging to life harbours at least three of the brutes, systematically chomping away. I've seen them on the flowers, the fruit trees, the ground, the walls,even inside, trying to get into my bed. Exit the front door and you collide with them, swingling from the gutters. 
   We've also found that in America, the land of hard work and free enterprise, not one local business was prepared to come and spray our trees.   We talked to our neighbour, who owns a lumber company and knows something about trees.  “I saw it coming last year”, he said helpfully, “There were eggs all over the place”.  And he added, even more helpfully, “There’s nothing to be done. Except spraying from the air. And even that doesn’t work.”  Apparently the last time they tried it, the caterpillars just brought reinforcements.
  And our neighbour the bison rancher said he'd been on the blower to Cornell University to get some advice. The only thing they could tell him was that the moths "blew in on the wind". Well we have had a lot of wind.
  A website I looked at suggested putting some sticky goo on the trees. But if you got any on you, that was it. It would never come off. Ever.   In the end, hubby rigged up something with the hose,  so we could at least spray the lower branches. And there's the burlap trick - wrap some burlap soaked in insecticide and watch the beasts walk on it to their doom. In theory.  So far, the only change is that the caterpillars are getting bigger.

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