There are several different species of tent caterpillar. The one’s shown here, photographed in West Duluth, look a tad different than the dreaded forest tent caterpillars that defoliate trees and shrubs in nightmarish fashion.
I sometimes wonder if people who have moved to Minnesota from outside the Midwest maybe eight years ago hear army worm stories and think it’s a figment of folklore, like the hoop snake. They will be in for a surprise.
I came across several of these disgusting silken mats of forest tent caterpillars on Sunday in the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area, about 160 miles south of Duluth. I’m sure there’s some larvae busting from egg masses somewhere in the northern part of the state, too, but I haven’t seen any yet.
I think next summer is when things should start to get really gross around here, with a peak in 2012 … although I haven’t heard any official predictions yet. Anyway, it probably wouldn’t hurt to get stocked up on tin foil and dish soap, or whatever is supposed to keep the ravenous little beasts from chewing your trees bald. Perhaps someone can fill us in on good dish soap substitutes that are better for the environment but still make the “army” retreat. (It’s smart the way they invade every 10 years … just long enough for us to forget all their weaknesses.)