For those of you who live in areas that are not densely populated with Oak Trees, allow me to introduce to you an insect so vile, so heinous, so abhorred, that it is universally referred to as the Scourge of the South*. In more common terms, it is the Buck Moth Caterpillar.
These caterpillars arrive in the spring, in hordes. They amass in Oak trees, and like locusts, proceed to eat as much of the trees leaves as possible. Ecological damage aside, they hurt like hell and keep everyone on their toes.
I’m lucky now – there are really very few Oak trees in the Marigny and French Quarter – quite the opposite of the neighborhood I grew up in – the Garden District. Oak trees line uptown – in certain points, if one were so determined they could traverse an entire city block solely on Oaks.
I remember as a child, walking to school with an umbrella with nary a clod in the sky – it was getting wet that I feared – it was falling caterpillars. Usually, you’ll see one drop here and there. But once in a while, you’ll see a large cluster fall to the ground and disperse. When I was ten, I was playing in the back yard without shoes – an unthinkably stupid act for this time of year – and I stepped on one of the monsters, crushing it with the arch of my foot.
I have never felt such intense, long-lasting pain.
These days, the Buck Moth caterpillar population is still uncomfortable large, but much much smaller than it was even 15 – 20 years ago, and I consider myself lucky to not live in a neighborhood infested with them. There is, however, an Oak that hangs over in to my backyard – just enough to bring the caterpillars in. My neighbor is in her eighties or nineties, and her back yard where the Oak is rooted lies in a constant state of neglect.
I called a company, Payne Exterminating, and set up an appointment to have them spray the tree Tuesday morning, for a mere $75. I can’t wait. While there is still much work to be done in the backyard, I don’t have to worry about the dog sniffing/playing/rolling with these spiked harbingers of pain. Plus, the tree will be much healthier for it.
*In this case, “universally” means “just me”.