Sunday, June 1, 2014

Western Tent Caterpillar Parasite Pictures

Photo by Darren Strenge, 2014.
In an earlier article found here, I wrote about the increasingly apparent return of the western tent caterpillar
to Kitsap county.  In that article I mentioned Tachinid flies, parasites that lay eggs on live caterpillars to be used as food by the fly larvae upon hatching.  These flies, along with a virus, are two parasites that help to bring the tent caterpillar infestations under control over a period of a few years.  At the beginning of these infestations, the population levels of these parasites can be very low.  But they are around and in my yard, I found a caterpillar with the egg of a Tachinid fly stuck to its head.

Photo by Darren Strenge, 2014.
Many people are grossed out by these crawly caterpillars.  The urge to squish can be strong, but please look before you lower your foot.  If you see a little white dot on the caterpillar's head, leave it be.  The larva that hatches out of the egg will kill the caterpillar and grow up to lay eggs on many more caterpillars next year.  This is how the flies increase their numbers to help bring the caterpillar infestation under control.  So remember, if you squish that one caterpillar, you may in fact be saving many caterpillars next year.  Just do what I do, and move the caterpillar to a safe place.

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