Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tents and a Bucket

It had been a summer of darkness and light. First, the worms. We thought that by removing all the Styrofoam-like egg cases from tree branches and lopping off twigs with the early webs we’d gained a leg up on their summer’s advance. We thought wrong.

(Dark section of this tree's trunk is solid caterpillers.)

Soon we were surrounded, as the native woods endured the first round of attack and the familiar canopy of shade began to disappear. Having stripped the giant Alders, these voracious tent caterpillars moved on to new territory. For days, standing in silence at the edge of the yard, we heard the dropping of small bodies, or their droppings - we never knew for sure which - like the pitter-patter of a gentle rain. Seeing cherries standing out like rounded bright red sore thumbs on a nearly leafless tree and gorgeous full-blown roses on naked stems, I knew we were defeated. My husband swept the porch numerous times each day and resorted to spray, but it was a case of simply letting nature run its course. Our yard became noticeable sunnier.

Then, the moths. After a brief respite during a staggered pupation period, a new wave appeared.

Each evening brought a flurry of drab, furry brown bodies beating themselves to death on every lighted window, door and skylight in sight. And so, an equally bright idea formed in the back of my husband’s mind and he set out to fight fire with fire, so to speak. He concocted a moth trap with a metal shop light clamped to a wooden lath, which in turn was clamped to a white plastic bucket full of soapy water. Worked like a charm! Left on all night long, the light did its job of attracting the moths, so that by morning he was dumping a good-sized army of dead moths. We did not win the war, mind you, just leveled the playing field a bit.


Enter, the frog. A small tree frog lives in an ivied basket on the porch railing near our kitchen window. It comes and goes as it pleases and I like to think it is the same one each year, although it probably is not. Since the moth trap was on the end of this railing, we noticed the frog leaving its basket and lurking about as we watched the mass mothicide each evening. We observed one night as he scaled upward - his delicate, splayed toes, outstretched legs, and rotund little body silhouetted against the backlit white bucket. Reaching the top, he crept along the narrow edge and wedged himself into the small space between the clamp and the lath. I worried that he might leap at a moth, flinging himself into the frothy water below, but he was wiser than that. He waited patiently, casually picking off the odd moth that ascended up the lath by foot, wings vibrating. In the darkness of night, this frog was now highly vulnerable, waiting alone under a bright light to fill its belly. But it was an opportunist, took its chances and depended, at least for the time being, on this light for its livelihood.

 I think this is dangerous, risky business for a frog. How could he do that? On the other hand, life is a dangerous, risky business. How could he not?

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for it is light that makes everything visible.
This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead.
and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live -
not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish,
but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Ephesians 5:13 - 17

You are my lamp, O Lord;
the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.
2 Samuel 22:29 - 30

Moth picture file from Wikimedia Commons


  1. Oh, my goodness! That would be awful that have that happen. Sooooo many of them!! I'm very sorry! You write so well. Your words really draw me in. Such an interesting story!

  2. thanks!! for sending me this way. i can surely relate!!

    we have the same thing here...the tent caterpillars and also the tussock moth caterpillar that makes these little sticky cocoons on EVERYTHING!!! those are easy enough to pluck where you can reach...

    the little frogs and whatever else munches on caterpillars and moths, certainly help with the invasion!!