Revenge of the Oak Moth

They’re trying to compete with the human takeover of Earth. They camouflage themselves with fluttery, seductive, feathery-sweet wing-light in the late afternoon, but we know better.

The California Oakworm or California Oak Moth (Phryganidia californica) is in its first mating season in Santa Cruz County (hold on folks, there can be two or three mating seasons each year!).  Last week, while walking in Schwan Lake Park & along the rail line, I could hear the clamourous masticating of caterpillars & the dropping frass of their letting go.  Then it was errily quiet for two days.  I knew what was coming.

The Oak Moths.  Scientists say that there is an 8-10 year cycle of the closely-linked Oak Moth and tasty leaves of our gorgeous California Live Oak trees (Quercus agrifolia). But it hasn’t been eight years since the last infestation.  This is happening nearly every year.  Is it because of climate change?  Not enough predators?  What’s going on??

I’m all for relational evolution (hmmm, is this a scientific term?).  But as the dominant Earthly species, can’t we have a say in this?  Caterpillars that love to attach themselves to our clothes & hair are kinda creepy, don’tcha think?

Of course, it’s not their fault.  They’re just being Oak Moths.  They don’t know or care that they’re being annoying & defoliating our beloved oak trees.  They’re just trying to mate & carry on the species.  Just like us.

Well, except we human primates have something we call awareness about it all…about being annoyed by caterpillars & worried about tree damage & yes too, buoyed (momentarily) by the magic of multitudinous flying beings flitting around everywhere.  It’s our blessing & our curse, don’tcha think?

Ah, for the simple life of metamorphosis.

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8 Responses to Revenge of the Oak Moth

  1. Tammy says:

    Fascinating. I can’t believe you could hear them!

  2. Jean says:

    From what I have read, these 8-10 year cycle infestations by the moth usually last two years. So this second year can be expected. However, our last infestation was in 2008. Perhaps the drought of 2007-2009 was a factor. I watch every single oak tree in my neighborhood, everyone of them my friend. I also keep watching for more moth-loving birds but see none. The moths obviously taste yucky. Darn.

  3. lindaab says:

    You are too generous linda! I hate what they are doing! It will be nuclear winter in our valley when they are done. I think it’s a lack of wasps ! Sigh. So now we can eat outside without being attacked by wasps but get caterpillars instead? Who’s dominant now?

  4. lindaaB says:

    What do you mean by extreme spiderization???

    • liveoaklinda says:

      OK I made up that word. Haven’t you noticed that there seem to be more spiders & spider webs in the fall? Spiders are one of the predators of oak moths, ergo, more moths=more spiders. At least that was the logic behind ‘spiderization’.

  5. Jean says:

    There have always been lots of spiders in the autumn. This is why Halloween parties always had spider webs as decorations. I have enjoyed watching the swallows at the entrance to the harbor of late. They are the only birds I have observed swooping in near the oak trees and their moths in the afternoons when it is warm enough for the moths to be active. Seems like the moths would be dry and stick in the throat (pluh-pluh), but maybe the swallows, catching them fast on the wing, end up just “swallowing” them before they can decide they don’t like the dry taste. I dunno, sounds not too scientific, but I just thought of this as I was typing.

  6. liveoaklinda says:

    They’re back! As predicted, the second cycle is right now in the creepy caterpillar stage. Watch out on those walks!

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