See that little green worm on the base of my left thumb? It was one of scores, maybe hundreds, of tiny caterpillars letting themselves down from trees in the yard this weekend at the end of strands of silk so thin they were hardly visible at all.
It looked like a scene from an insect version of “Minority Report,” with tiny worm troopers descending on a hapless suspect — me.
The suspect was puzzled. What are these things and why are they dangling from the foliage above? An entomologist would know, probably. And if you know, even if entomology is not your field, I’d appreciate a note in the comments below.
A cursory search produced a couple of candidates from different websites.
One described the oak leaftier caterpillar as “quite small, measuring only half an inch in length … greenish-yellow in color. These are frequently seen suspended from oak trees by silk threads.” This sounded right because a big oak was one of the trees overhead.
The other was about the winter moth, which attacks apple, pear and other fruit trees, as well as oaks and other kinds. These caterpillars apparently munch on buds. And the ones descending on me as I walked around the yard came from a pear and an apple tree, as well as the oak. “To increase their chances of finding tasty buds and also to enable them to spread to nearby trees some of the caterpillars will spin a thin thread and hang downwards from the thread.”
Well, good luck to them. The ones that landed on me got shaken off and ended up in the grass. (hh)