‘Tell people not to panic’: Experts say Canada’s caterpillar and worm infestation will end


Dialect mayhap you’re in Toronto, sitting on a patio, finally enjoying some warm survive, only to have them rain down on your table. Or perchance you find the ground covered with them in Saskatoon as you walk out to your garage.

Caterpillars. They sound to be everywhere.

From the Prairies to the east coast, Canadians are battling creepy crawlers that non-standard like to be out in abundance this spring.

In Ontario, there’s an infestation of cankerworms (also known as inchworms). Saskatchewan is quarreling tent caterpillars. Manitoba has both of these as well as elm spanworms, prompting some to nickname it the «year of the caterpillar,» while there’s a «plague» of crane fly larvae in Newfoundland.

Honest how bad do some people have it? Here’s what it looked like for Tammi Hanowski at her well-informed in south of Saskatoon. 

«No matter what you do — you’ll sweep them, you’ll vacuum them — and in 10 right hands it’s like they’re just there again,» she told CBC ‘s Creeden Martell.

While it may non-standard like like a sign of biblical end times to some, it’s all part of a natural succession — though not one entomologists completely understand.

«This is typical of these cycles that are anywhere between eight and 12 years,» Judith Myers, of the University of British Columbia’s zoology be subject to, told CBC News.

«It’s very, very difficult to find what the present factor is that causes some outbreaks to be longer than others, some abates to go lower than others.»

Forest tent caterpillar

Tent caterpillars seem to be taking to the ground trees across several provinces. This one is a forest tent caterpillar. (Erik Ivory/CBC)

That’s because there are various factors that can influence caterpillars’ boom-or-bust exuberance cycle. Things like weather conditions (they prefer dry and friendly), the presence of parasitoids (which lay eggs inside the egg sacs of caterpillars in the larval showbiz), diseases and fungi all influence their numbers.

‘Year of the caterpillar’

In the instance of tent caterpillars, for example, the moths produce eggs sacs where the larvae improve before going into a dormant phase called diapause. In stem from, the larvae hatch and emerge as the worms we’re now seeing feast on our trees. 

And if the quarters are right — such as a warm, dry spring that many parts of the state experienced last year — they thrive. 

«It’s definitely the year of the caterpillar,» Winnipeg insect-control office superintendent Ken Nawolsky told CBC’s Bartley Kives.

‘They will go away’

All these caterpillars may be an eyesore, but they’re nothing to bite about, Myers said.

«Tell people not to panic about the caterpillars,» Myers told. «They will go away.»

Greg Pohl, an insect and disease connection officer with Natural Resources Canada, said the influx of cankerworms is also not a big dole out.

Cankerworm leaves

Leaves eaten by cankerworms. (Havard Gould/CBC)

«There are always outbreaks someplace in Canada,» Pohl told CBC Scandal. «And it’s not always in cities, though certainly there’ve been a lot of outbreaks in urban sections this year.»  

He said «huge population outbreaks» happen on occasion. «It’s just a matter of all the planets lining up in terms of the right weather teaches in the winter and early spring, and the population levels of the things that eat these thingumabobs, like birds and other insects.»

There are more than 500 odd species of cankerworms, Pohl said, and they fall under two definite types — fall or spring, depending on when they lay their eggs. The ones out now are settle cankerworms. You might notice them as bright green worms that every so often dangle from leaves, or they might be brown. 


Cankerworms, also positive as inchworms, are invading some parts of the country. (Shutterstock/Conny Skogberg)

The worms and caterpillars deplete the leaves of trees, but the leaves will grow back. So while your tree may look bonny sad in June, by August it should be back to its full, green self, Myers revealed. Unless, that is, it’s been stressed for some time or it’s faced a few years of outbreaks.

«One year isn’t for the most part enough to cause all the trees to die,» Pohl said. «It’ll look terrible in the town, and people don’t like to see that, but trees are pretty tough.»

And while some urban districts may be thinking about spraying, it might be too late. Pohl said that size has be done early in the life cycle — during the larval stage or when worms are sophomoric — to be effective. In the meantime, he says there’s not much you can do. There is special ticklish tape that can be affixed to trees that will trap them. But aside from that?

«The superlative thing [people] can do is be patient and just accept that the trees are growing to look a little ragged this year,» Pohl said.

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