Caterpillars invade Toledo Metroparks
Toledo, OH -- A creepy, crawly critter is invading Toledo's Metroparks. The good news is it's not doing any harm to vegetation. They're orange-striped oakworms and if you've been out to any of the Metroparks recently, you've probably been surrounded by them. No one knows why there are so many of them this year.
The black and orange worms are wriggling all over from walking paths to trees to poles. Wildwood walker Melanie Gladieaux says, "Caterpillars everywhere. They're really big and cool looking." So are we under attack? Only if you feel threatened by these inch and a half long orange-striped oakworms. Metroparks of Toledo Naturalist Bunny Rossnagel says, "I haven't heard of people having high numbers of them. This is probably a bumper crop year for them here at Wildwood. We've normally seen a lot of them at Oak Openings."
At Wildwood, you can't take a step without nearly missing one of the little guys. Look up to the canopy of oak trees and you'll see their smorgasbord: oak leaves munched away with worms still balancing on the branches. Rossnagel says, "They don't hurt the tree. It's the process of the trees going into dormancy anyways so it's not a big deal." She adds these oakworms appear in late August and September in the caterpillar stage, drop to the ground and spend Winter in brown cocoons before emerging as orangish-brown moths in Spring.
The dropping to the ground part sometimes poses a problem. Rossnagel says, "If they're landing on the cement or blacktop, they're crawling and they get run over so it's an obstacle course for us and kind of dangerous for them!" What's the survival rate? "I don't know!," she says. "It's whatever hits the pavement and doesn't crawl fast enough!"
These caterpillars won't hurt you and they don't usually harm healthy trees despite their voracious appetite. Their appearance is another reminder that Fall is only a few weeks away!
local, kristin emery
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