WDAY: The News Leader

Published June 01, 2010, 08:54 AM

Caterpillars invade lakes country

Otter Tail County, Minn. (WDAY TV) - A pest is getting the best of some lakeside homes in Otter Tail county. An Army Worm invasion is making some trees look like its fall.

Most people call them "army worms."

"You see so many of them that they're crawling up the stem of a tree; it looks like the whole tree is marching like an army. Maybe that's where that came from."

They're actually Forest Tent Caterpillars and they'll make a perfectly healthy tree look dead as can be. Not only an eye sore around a lake home, but a nuisance.

"They'll drop out of the trees at times. They'll be crawling on the house or garage, driveway, any place."

Kevin Anderson lives on Little Pleasant Lake. Every year he's noticed more and more caterpillars.

"All of the sudden they're crawling on your head or neck when you're mowing."

Bev Johnson lives right down the road from Anderson. Johnson is a Master Gardener with Otter Tail County Extensions. She advised Anderson to kill off the caterpillars by hiring a pilot to fly over and spray bacteria on the trees.

"Doesn't hurt the caterpillar until it starts to eat the leaf and that paralyzes his gut so he starves to death."

Johnson says the caterpillars come and go in A 13 year cycle. They grow in numbers every year and after 13 years there gets to be so many of them there's not enough food to go around. She says you see a lot of bare trees in lakes country right now because we're getting close to the end of a cycle.

"They starve to death. They eat themselves out of house and home."

For Anderson, natures cure for his problem can't come soon enough. For now he'll have to settle with paying every year for a solution, even though one or two might still slip by. Those caterpillars will soon turn to moths. Johnson says before they die, they'll lay between 1 and 300 eggs in a tree.