Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Unheavenly Host

And there came to Lotus Island in the year of the Dragon, the unheavenly host of tent caterpillars, targeting and ravaging the soft leaf trees, devastating the landscape thoughout the island. I am reminded of the drought years of the early 40's on the bald prairie with the grasshopper clouds, eating every grain in sight, leaving so much bodily debris and grasshopper juice on the grill and windows of one's car that it was difficult to travel. They even constructed grasshopper screens for the car grill in those days. The windscreen looked like a deluge of tobacco spit from the spittoon. A repeat worm plague today on Lotus island, resembling the plague of locusts in old Egypt and Kindersley from yester-millennium and yesteryear. The tent caterpillars on Lotus Island have now left the trees and are in cocoons, metamorphosing into the adult moth form in mid July. There is, I am happy to report, a glimmer of light on the horizon, at least on the patch of ground of the pianist and the elderly eclectic gentleman. I took apart and examined 50 cocoons on my blueberry patch. The cocoons are of an intricate construction. They comprise an inner sack that contains the headless black nymph, awaiting transformation from Cinderella to Princess. This is a secondary oval silken sack, finely woven and close ended. The outer cocoon is a loosely woven primary sack designed initially by the worm to secure the later inner sack to the leaf and branch. 50 compound sacks were investigated by me yesterday. There were only 5 sacks containing a healthy black, headless instar that will transform to a moth.The balance of the sacks contained dead or immature worms in a state of dissolution, empty sacks without exit holes, or parasitic larvae, not identified, foraging on worm carcases. There were no further gestating nymphs in metamorphoses. Today I see the devastated trees are beginning to re-leaf and the meagre 10 percent cycle success suggested by my admittedly short and local series, still gives me some cause for optimism that the plague cycle has peaked. I may be dreaming in vain but, unlike Joseph,I can not interpret a dream. Nevertheless, like Pandora's box, Hope remained available in the box, while the Evils spread their wings and entered the world.

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