Forest Tent Caterpillars are not my friends. The last time the troops visited was in 2001 and I said, “If they are ever this bad again I’m moving.” The population peaks every 10 to 16 years and normally lasts three to five years. Predictions were made for 2014 to be another peak year on the Gunflint Trail and in Northern Minnesota. I hope the predictors are wrong.
I haven’t seen any signs of the caterpillars around and they usually come out in late May. We did have a late spring so there is the possibility they could still come but I don’t think they will. If they do then I’ll have to keep my promise and move if they are as bad as they were in 2001.
I remember seeing lines of the tiny caterpillars making their way up the trees and across the ground to get to the trees. They seemed to be everywhere and ate all of the green leaves off of every tree. They quickly turned into full size caterpillars and hung from trees, climbed up buildings and squished beneath your feet with every step you took. Campers could hear them chewing leaves and dropping onto their tents(as well as dropping droppings onto their tents). It was really disgusting and I remember snowplows having to clear roads of the greenish black greasy guts of all of the caterpillars that had been ran over by vehicles.
It wasn’t much better when they turned into moths. Anywhere a light was left on at night the moths congregated and then died in piles that we had to shovel off of doorsteps. It was quite the sight and smell. I’m fairly certain the caterpillars are going to skip us and if they don’t then you’ll be the first to know.
Find out more about Forest Tent Caterpillars on the Minnesota DNR Website.