Caterpillars are gross and yucky but won’t hurt you, says new alert from Saskatchewan Parks

Saskatchewan Parks are telling visitors to brace themselves for masses of caterpillars.

The insects are particularly prevalent on trees at this time of year. So to warn visitors, Sask Parks came right out and said it. There’s gonna be lots of them around.

There’s no way around it: they will be bad again this year, particularly in the southeast portion of the province.

Over the winter, the park system did egg mass surveys in several of our parks, and this spring, we sprayed five parks to help control the volume in the following locations: Buffalo Pound, Crooked Lake, Echo Valley, Good Spirit Lake and Moose Mountain.

Officials used an environmentally friendly spray called BTK which it claims is not harmful to people, animals, birds, bees or any insect that is not in the larval (caterpillar) stage of their life cycle. But the parks people say no spray is 100 per cent effective and there will beĀ caterpillars in these and other parks. So, here are a few things the parks want visitors to keep in mind:

– Yes, they are gross. But they will not hurt you. They do not sting, they do not bite, they are not poisonous, they are just plentiful.

– Their caterpillar stage is short-lived. They’ll only be bad for a couple of weeks, and by mid-June, they will be only a memory. They will emerge from their cocoons in late July and their moth stage only lasts five to 10 days.

– They will defoliate trees and shrubs, in some cases almost completely. However, our vegetation is very hardy and new leaves will appear. By July, the trees will be almost fully refoliated.

– This defoliation will not hurt healthy trees. Healthy trees would need to be severely defoliated for four or more consecutive years before the tree would be at risk. Which leads us to…

– These caterpillars are cyclical. Outbreaks like this happen approximately every 10 years (though can be anywhere from six to 16 years) and usually last about three years.

– We will do our best to remove them from places like service centres, but keep in mind that they WILL re-congregate in those places, and over the next couple of weeks, it may simply be impossible to keep an area completely free of them. (After all, one of the reasons to visit a park is to interact with nature.)

– We will not apply any kind of home remedy, including dish soap and cooking oil, to the caterpillars. This can have unintended environmental consequences and, while yucky, the caterpillars are simply a part of our ecosystem.

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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers

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