Short-lived moths cloud the area

Tyler Clarke
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They only live a few days in their moth form, but they make quite the impact during their limited lives.


With thick clouds of moths gathering around bright objects en masse, “This is not a good week to have your porch light on,” forest practices and science manager David Stevenson said.

Poring over Canadian Forestry Service literature at the Prince Albert Forest Centre on Wednesday, Stevenson explained that the insects don’t pose a threat, though when crunched underfoot they might gross some people out.

The sidewalk outside of city hall has been littered with moth corpses throughout the week.

Other pockets of the city are seeing masses of the fuzzy creatures during their final hours -­- in some cases disoriented or struggling on the ground.

The moths should be gone by some time next week, Stevenson said.

The outbreak of forest tent caterpillars (Malacosoma disstria) began in May, hitting the Christopher Lake area hardest, though pockets of caterpillars have been spotted throughout the Prairies.

At the Prince Albert National Park, external relations manager Pat Dunn said that they haven’t seen a concerning number of caterpillars.

“The park is being affected -- not as heavily as areas south of the park like Christopher Lake, but we’re seeing some defoliation on the entrance to the park and just south of the town site,” she said.

“We’re not too concerned about it. It defoliates the trees, probably leaves will grow back this year, though they’ll probably be smaller leaves.”

The creepy crawlies remain as caterpillars for about six weeks after hatching, after which they spin themselves into cocoons.

About 10 days later, the moths we’re currently experiencing emerge.

Females deposit their clumps of between 100 and 300 eggs around small twigs – “It looks like styrofoam on a twig,” Stevenson said. Larvae emerge the following spring.

With forest tent caterpillars typically coming as part of four to five-year outbreaks, the same number, or perhaps even more, caterpillars are expected next spring.

This depends on different variables, Stevenson said.

Forest tent caterpillars are always around, and although outbreaks only happen every 10 years or so, there’s always an outbreak happening somewhere.

Organizations: Canadian Forestry Service, Prince Albert Forest Centre

Geographic location: Christopher Lake, Prince Albert National Park

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