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June 1st, 2004 · No Comments

This year we’ve been blessed with a bumper crop of tent caterpillars. The girls like to think of them as pets, although, ever since Abigail had the false chicken pox scare with a rash, we haven’t let her be as friendly with them. Elisabeth can’t say many words, but she will point and stare at one in adoration, the way a teenage girl might gaze at a movie idol on screen. I, however, am not fond or a fan of these pests.

We can’t leave the house without seeing a caterpillar. The other day, on the way outside, I saw one with white dots on its head and body. Despite our record years of tent caterpillars, I had yet to see one that had been parasitized by a wasp. This is a good thing – if you are a human, that is.


As gardener Ann Lovejoy described:

Before spraying with Bt, examine the caterpillars for signs of parasitic wasps. Typically, the tiny wasps lay a single egg on each caterpillar’s head, though an egg may appear anywhere on the body. The white eggs are about the size of a pinhead. Dotty caterpillars are already doomed.

I was excited but Ted said he had already seen many of these this year. Wonder how I missed them. I’m glad to know that a natural predator is beginning to keep the caterpillars under control. Perhaps, as I’ve heard, this will be our last intense year losing foliage to these furry creatures with jaws. I won’t miss them when they are gone.

Now the more I look, the more doomed caterpillars I see. In a sense it is strange to look at these creatures and to know their destiny. To think that anyone can see how they will die. Their destruction is imminent and obvious to all.

Imagine if humans could know their own fate. Or look at someone else and know how she will die. Then again, some humans have their own obvious parasites that destroy them.

Or for another perspective…if only I could look at the evil and destruction in life – the way I look at these parasitized caterpillars in my garden – and know with confidence that they will come to an end soon.

Tags: gardening