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Migrating caterpillars
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In the last two weeks, I have been getting a lot of calls about different types of caterpillars that are migrating into people’s yards and gardens, and sometimes even their houses! I will talk about a few of these and try to help you out a little bit if you are also having this problem.
The first caterpillar I want to talk about is the woolly bear caterpillar. This is the larval form of a moth called a tiger moth. There are 2 generations of caterpillars each year (May and August). The second generation is the one you have noticed now as they are crossing the roads, usually in great haste as if they have someplace special to go. In fact they are only scurrying to find a sheltered location under dead plant debris, etc. where they will spend the winter as a larva. In the spring they will feed briefly before changing into a cocoon and eventually a moth. Eggs laid by the female moths start the cycle over again. In most years, the fuzzy larve are harmless to a homeowner’s plants, and they go on their way to overwinter without much fuss. Unfortunately, this year they are feeding along the way to their winter homes. This is unusual at this time of year, but probably due to everything coming on so late this summer. It is not recommended that you treat for them at this time, since most plants are in a state of decline with the fall season upon us, and they should be moving on soon.
Another call I received was millipedes in the garage and on the outside walls of the house. These guys are just trying to find a warm cozy place to pass the winter. They seem to be more numerous than normal, but that is most likely that their numbers have been down for the past several years with the drought, and they are just back to normal numbers now. Now, most people do not want to share their homes with millipedes, so the best thing you can do is to have a pest control service come spray your house. The millipedes will start climbing and be irritated by the spray and fall off your walls. Any that do happen to make it into your house, a vacuum is recommended to get rid of them.
Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-State Research and Extension. You can contact her by e-mail at or calling 620-793-1910