Wednesday, June 5, 2013

‘Tis the Season of Profligate Fecundity

Guests spent a few days in my cabin in the Lopez woods last week and reported that once the cabin got warm, the big black ants swarmed out of the woodwork.

Not quite so dramatic were the little winged ants in our bedroom last weekend coming from and going into the heater vent.

Outside, closing off the holes under the fence to keep the bunnies out of the garden made me feel like Elmer Fudd.

And I spent this past weekend picking tent caterpillars off the flame bush hedge and berry bushes. The trees and bushes will be fine; however, the little apple tree in the no man’s land between the road and the neighboring properties will be fortunate if it survives.

I love to hear accounts of the rivers being so full of salmon that you could walk across the waters on their backs. Of the skies being dark for an hour or two as the flocks of passenger pigeons flew over.

When the night waters in Hawaii used to turn red with the schooling ‘aweoweo (bigeye), the Hawaiians said royalty will die. We’d go down to the harbor with lanterns to fish and they’d even bite an empty, shiny hook.

I like fish and I like birds (although an hour of birds passing overhead would be a bit much for me). Insects? Not so much.

I was stunned when watching Samuel Orr’s short movie-in-the-works about the 17-year cyclic return of the cicadas in New England. Watch it and you’ll see what nature’s profligate fecundity is. OK, it’s about insects, lots of them, but it’s an amazing piece of work in progress: Return of the Cicadas

And our tent caterpillars? WSU Extension says that there’s a tachinid fly which parasitizes the larvae by depositing white eggs on the caterpillar's body. (I looked for any caterpillars with white eggs on their bodies and would have let them be if I had found any.)

In the next stage, I should be looking for cocoons in and around the plants. “The adult moths emerge in approximately 7 to 10 days. The moths are stout-bodied and light brown. They often fly in clusters around street or porch lights on summer evenings. After the moths mate, the females lay 100 to 350 eggs in a froth-covered band around small twigs or branches of host trees. The eggs mature in 3 weeks but do not hatch until the following spring.”

Now you know what I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks.

--Mike Sato 


  1. Hi Mike, Thanks for following my blog Pacific Northwest Seasons! Ah a cabin on Lopez, lucky man you are. I noticed a tree covered with what sounds like tent catepillars on the beach on Shaw Island over Memorial Day weekend. Didn't look like it was good for the tree?? It was on private property (where I was reminded not to stray on the beach, my mistake) so didn't do anything about it. BTW my father published community weekly newspapers for years when they were a going concern, first the Bothell Citizen (double duty while he was as Associate Prof of Journalism at UW), then moved us to Oregon when I was wee and published numerous weeklies down there and on the Oregon Coast. Good luck in your business endeavors!

    1. Thank, Jill. Your latest blog on Kruckenberg Gardens was very nicely done. I think our parallel lives include a lot of islands, wildlife and newspapers.