It is caterpillar season in the Peace again. Not only are these little pests swarming our trees, roads and houses, they have invaded our thoughts and conversations, and probably nightmares! The sheer number of them is staggering – billions of them munching away at leaves and stripping trees bare. I’m not sure how many legs Forest Tent Caterpillars have, but there are a lot of feet marching across our landscape. The swarm, they swing and they swim!! The forest is never silent, but now there is a continual soundtrack of chewing behind the bird chirping. In the hardest hit areas people are sweeping up dustpans full off their front steps a few times a day, blasting them off buildings with pressure washers or sucking them up in shop vacs. Bug-checks are performed before you enter a building – this is best done with a buddy so you can be sure there are none wriggling around on your back, catching a ride inside. Icky. Creepy. Gross. However, amid all the horror and complaining, I give you ten reasons why the caterpillars really ain’t so bad.
1. They don’t bite. Or sting. Or otherwise hurt us, or our animals. They are not killer bees. Do you know how many kids die every day because of malaria caused by mosquito bites? I don’t, but it is far more than the number of Westerners will die from every kind of insect bite combined.
2. They are not poisonous. Even if one did mistake you for an aspen leaf you would not get sick or die. They are not poisoning our air or water sources.
3. They are not eating our food supply or cash crops we need to survive. Even if they ate all the plants in my garden I can go to my choice of grocery stores and buy food in and out of season from all over the world. This is not a plague that is threatening our livelihood, health or life. Get out a map of Africa, close your eyes, point your finger on a spot and I guarantee the people who live under your finger are dealing with something so much worse you don’t even really want to think about it.
4. The leaves will grow back on almost all the trees. Granted, there will be a few casualties – vulnerable young trees & plants may not survive, but otherwise the caterpillar-eaten leaves will grow back. Consider the mountain pine beetle epidemic that killed millions of pine trees in B.C. & Alberta – forests full of dead trees had to be cut down, and pine trees take a long time to mature. The effect here is much more a short-term aesthetic one – I am currently looking out at a barren brown landscape instead of a lush green one. Disappointing, but not devastating.
5. They will eventually move on. The caterpillar crunch is cyclical. We may have a few more years to endure, but they will move on or die at some point. This is short-term in the big picture of things.
6. They are not spiders. Enough said.
7. They are not threatening our homes. When your lawn becomes a carpet of caterpillars you have the option of going inside. To a cozy, fully-furnished house complete with a roof, windows and doors. (Not to mention t.v., computers, ipods, books, beds etc.) The caterpillars are not going to chew through our thatch roofs or cardboard walls.
8. They are getting us out of our comfort zone. That’s not such a bad thing, is it? It is good to be reminded not to take things for granted.
9. They are small. I must admit I would be quite frightened if I felt one could snatch up my youngest child or squash my car. Elephant-sized they are not.
10. They are God’s creatures. I have no idea why – I don’t know if there were tent caterpillars in the Garden or Eden or what, but that doesn’t really matter. I know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8.28)
So chew on, caterpillars. I will suck it up, shake’em off and get back outside.