A residence outside of Walton is being invaded by woolly bear caterpillars.

Debby Baker of rural Walton said that she cannot find any answers as to why she has hundreds upon hundreds of them on her property.

“I am constantly sweeping and getting rid of them, they’re just everywhere. It only started about a week ago,” said Baker. “They really like my garage. I have brown doors, and they get all over my garage doors. I’ve tried soapy water. My daughter Googled and she found a thing about garlic, so we put some garlic in water. You’re really supposed to spray them, but I’m sorry, I don’t have time to go around spray bottling every one of them — I just take a broom. I have resorted to putting them in my burn barrel. My daughter says, ‘Oh you’re killing them,’ and I said, ‘Yes I’m killing them, I’m sick of them.’”

She said they’re everywhere — they’re on the roads, they’re in the grass, they’re on her husband’s barn. “They just keep multiplying.”

“Maybe it’s something on her property,” said Tai Williamson from Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District. He suggested that it’s possible that the weather conditions are just right this year or its predators are not around. He also noted that woolly worms are not dangerous.

The woolly bear caterpillar will turn into the Isabella tiger moth.

Mark Kepler from the Fulton County Purdue Extension said that, “In fall, those guys seem to end up around our areas and homes. They’re looking for a place to spend the winter.”

Baker said that the only reasoning she can come up with is that she had two trees — a sycamore and a hard maple — trimmed back in August. “I just wonder if something was living in those trees and now they’re all hatching. … Maybe they were in these trees and we upset their habitat, so now they’re going to live on my property.”

She said that the person who trimmed the trees took most of the wood and that her husband only kept three or four logs. She said that those logs are kept far away from the back of the house.

wSo the mystery continues.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “The woolly bear caterpillar — also called woolly worm or fuzzy worm — has the reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather. The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 distinct segments of either rusty brown or black. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter.”

In Banner Elk, North Carolina, the “Woolly Worm Festival” is held in October every year. The festival consists of two days of racing woolly worms and the winning one is chosen to predict the upcoming winter. The winner also wins $1,000 dollars.

Most of the Baker’s woolly worms are more brown than black, so if their prognosticators are correct, at least the region can count on a mild winter.

Reach Tyra Bahney at tyra.bahney@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5150.

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