Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes and Caterpillars

Irene didn't really hit where I live, but we were treated to a fascinating cloud pattern in the sky and vicious winds. The Weather Channel website has a good satellite view of the outer bands passing over Georgia. Below is what it looked like from the ground. It's not the best view, but the clouds were in clear, dark lines like nothing I've ever seen. The enormity of hurricanes always amazes me. No rain except for a light misting this time. The beaches did get over ten foot swells and winds that blew with even more fury. I have seen pictures, and it's hard to believe that it's just the weakest part of the storm.

Georgia is unique on the east coast for how rarely it is hit by these storms. In the eleven years I have been here, there has never been anything major hit the area. In fact, it's been many decades since a serious storm has hit this state. It has to do with the nature of the coast and the winds can currents. The wide continental shelf combined with the fact that the coastline is basically the most westerly point on the eastern seaboard. Every year, there is talk of the threat of a hurricane, but it always swings off to Florida or the Carolinas.

I want to wish good luck to anyone who has or will be hit by the full fury of Irene. Stay safe.

On a completely different note, I found a tree on the campus where I'm doing my graduate studies that was completely infested with Eastern tent caterpillars. They are a pest species, and I have a little too much experience with them. During my time researching the Cyphomyrmex rimosus ants I handled a lot of frass: the nice way of saying herbivorous incest poop. So much so that the characteristics of the poop will probably be forever imprinted in my brain.

Eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) in their "tent"
If you're curious, Eastern ten caterpillars have poop that is small and nearly black in color and, when fed cherry leaves (as in my experiment), smells so fragrant that it attacks your nostrils every time you open the container it is kept in. Oddly enough, it is not an unpleasant odor when the frass has been left to dry completely. It does stink when fresh.


  1. Ick, I'm not fond of these types of bugs. We are having a huge infestation of what I believe are Fall Webworms? here in Oregon right now. They are everywhere and have killed a ton of trees and bushes. It's not pretty, and they get on everything.

  2. Tent caterpillars or fall webworms?

    We have both here, and you get tent caterpillars in the spring-- mainly in fruit trees-- and webworms in August through September-- and they are in the Oaks and walnut trees.

  3. I've never heard of webworms before.

    To be completely honest, I tend to be pretty bad about recognizing certain insects unless I'm really sure about them. The only caterpillar that I was familiar of that makes this sort of structure was the tent caterpillar. They may be webworms. I'll have to look into it.