(a.k.a. Elm spanworm)
Bio: This nasty little bugger is native to the island, though the first recorded outbreak-grade infestation of its species was in 2000. A member of the Geometridae family of the order Lepidoptera, it begins life as an egg laid in a tree during the previous summer’s worm-a-palooza. After busting out in late May or early June, it appears as a thin, centimeter-long green filament hanging off the tip of an elm or maple tree leaf. Over a period of four to six weeks, this little fleck grows into an opaque brown-black worm with reddish brown toe-like protrusions at either end of its body, which it uses to savagely clutch onto doorframes, plants, sweaters, bike helmets, and human necks. In addition to eliciting high-pitched, horror film-quality screams from otherwise rational and emotionally composed people, this little worm enjoys dangling from the branches of hardwood trees on nearly invisible silk strands. The teenage years are lively…Frequently, it and its friends dangle together in plague-sized groups, forming massive writhing clumps in the trees which, from a distance, can be mistaken for Medusa heads. It then envelops itself in a cone-shaped cocoon, from which it emerges as a small white moth and flies away from the tree it and its companions devoured.
Has the lousy weather this season set you back at all?: “Yeah, we’re way off schedule. We probably won’t be out in full force for another week or so.”
Is it true that you guys might be on your way out?: “We’re thinking about heading out to Mount Pearl. The suburbs give us a bit more room to swing around and we get smushed up against people’s faces less often. And I mean, come on, at least they have recycling.”
Is it true that you have no natural predator on the island?: Define predator. People with sprayers and jugs of BTK don’t do us any favors.
Favorite St. John’s Summer: Four generations ago… “There were so many of us that our poop covered the sidewalks and made them so slippery that the city had to issue city-wide warnings about the danger of falling. They put up signs and everything. It was beautiful.”
— Sarah Smellie