October 21, 2018

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Invasion of creepy crawlies winding down in city

MAGGIE MACINTOSH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Elm spanworms crawl on a sign that reads, "U-Pick FREE WORMS :)," which was put up on Lilac Street in the Crescentwood neighbourhood by a mystery Winnipegger.</p>

MAGGIE MACINTOSH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Elm spanworms crawl on a sign that reads, "U-Pick FREE WORMS :)," which was put up on Lilac Street in the Crescentwood neighbourhood by a mystery Winnipegger.

The neighbours who munch on tree leaves and dangle from webs into the streets will only be around for two more weeks, the city’s insect expert says.

Except for a few stragglers, the cankerworms, elm spanworms and forest tent caterpillars will disappear before the end of June, said Ken Nawolsky, superintendent of the insect control branch.

“We can definitely say, within two weeks, these caterpillars will be gone,” he said Tuesday.

“They hatch in early May, and their season generally goes until mid-June. So, we’re expecting, probably by the end of this weekend, that the vast majority of caterpillars will be finished their larval stage, where they continue to grow and eat before they enter their next stage of life.”

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The neighbours who munch on tree leaves and dangle from webs into the streets will only be around for two more weeks, the city’s insect expert says.

Except for a few stragglers, the cankerworms, elm spanworms and forest tent caterpillars will disappear before the end of June, said Ken Nawolsky, superintendent of the insect control branch.

"We can definitely say, within two weeks, these caterpillars will be gone," he said Tuesday.

"They hatch in early May, and their season generally goes until mid-June. So, we’re expecting, probably by the end of this weekend, that the vast majority of caterpillars will be finished their larval stage, where they continue to grow and eat before they enter their next stage of life."

The insects will enter the pupa stage, and grow to be moths.

Nawolsky said he also expects the caterpillar pest-spraying program to end this weekend.

Cankerworms, the hairless bright green or dark brown insects, will increase in numbers over the next few years, Nawolsky said, adding they have a seven-year life cycle in which their population fluctuates.

Forest tent caterpillars, hairy creatures that have a blue diamond fur pattern, show up every 12 to 15 years and linger in three-year cycles. Nawolsky said their numbers will be minimal next year.

He said the hairy, charcoal-coloured elm spanworms, however, come and go as they please, in "unpredictable" cycles.

In one neighbourhood, where elm spanworms cover residential fences and doorsteps in the hundreds, a Winnipegger put out a sign on the boulevard that reads, "U-Pick Free Worms."

Holly Russell, 39, said she made the sign out of an old beer case as "a funny joke," because of the invasion of various worms. She put it on the boulevard, around the corner from her boyfriend’s house.

"I’ve had a kick out of how many people have stopped to take photos and enjoy my sign," she said.

Michael Brome, a 31-year-old Crescentwood resident, passed by the sign Tuesday afternoon while he was walking his dog on Lilac Street.

For Brome, it’s welcome news the insects will be gone within the next two weeks. Not only have they covered his front lawn and steps, but have also occasionally made their way inside the house.

"It got so bad a week ago, I was literally walking in the streets, I wasn’t walking on the sidewalk. It felt like you were in Mission: Impossible, when they’re going through those red lasers," he said.

Taya Fehr was also walking home in the neighbourhood Tuesday.

The 19-year-old student at Robertson College said she can imagine it’d be satisfying to collect the caterpillars, "If they weren’t so gross and I wasn’t so busy."

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

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