Mealtime's over for Cape's winter moths | CapeCodOnline.com
By Doug Fraser
June 08, 2009
It's not yet summer, but the really bad bugs have already come and nearly gone.
Travel through Falmouth along Route 151, for instance, and there are areas with stands of trees that have lost 90 percent of their leaves, said Roberta Clark, horticulturist at the county extension service.
The culprit? Winter moth caterpillars, which have done similar damage in other areas of the Cape.
A certified arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, David Chalker poked at an inch-long lime-green caterpillar wriggling along an oak leaf, saying it had probably been eating away since mid-April. That's when it would have crawled into a leaf bud whose hardened shell had just cracked open.
Now, like many of its brethren, the caterpillar was ready to drop to the ground and spin a cocoon, where it will wait to emerge in winter as an adult moth.
Winter moth caterpillars have denuded the tree canopy in the Upper Cape towns this year. Parts of Marstons Mills, Cotuit, Osterville, Hyannis and Barnstable also suffered similar damage. It was spottier heading into the Lower Cape.