Raining Caterpillars

Posted on 
August 11, 2015

During the summer months in Linville Ridge, I cherish the fact that we can sleep with the windows open and enjoy the cool mountain air. The only negative is being woken up, before my alarm, by the rare thunderstorm – but that doesn’t happen very often. July 30th, however was just one of those mornings.

It was the start of The Classic, the Men’s Member-Guest Golf Tournament, and I was scheduled to support the Golf Professional staff at 7:30 a.m., so I headed towards the driving range. Mind you, by the time I was on my way, the sun was shining, sunrays were peering through the leaves and along the road, I noticed something that looked like multiple strands of fishing line or spiders hanging from a tree. I had never seen anything like it, so I had to stop and check it out.

Upon closer look, I realized that I was looking at multiple chains of caterpillars descending from some branches above – the strands of silk stretched 25-30 feet and each one contained caterpillars lowering themselves in a single file or in clumps of two. Needless to say, I was slightly late to my appointed location that morning, but I couldn’t get enough of these mysterious creatures.

The tree above and the ground below were overrun with the fuzzy black and white creatures, which I have now come to know as the Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar (Lophocampa caryae). An insect expert explained that after a heavy rainstorm, you will often find this species of caterpillar, nomadic social foragers, lowering themselves in groups to look for the best leaves to eat. The Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillars leave a trail of silk and scent for other caterpillars to follow. A fascinating sight to see!