Gypsy moths and I do not get along.
They don’t belong in North America. (true story) They’re gross. Hairy. And they eat the oak tree leaves. Last year, it was so bad that the deck was covered in feces that I had to sweep up on a daily basis, but we couldn’t eat or play outside because the @#$% would land in our hair, on our plates, etc. It was so loud that we could go outside and hear them chewing.
We sprayed (with a natural garlic spray). We taped the oaks with duct tape (they don’t like going across sticky surfaces) – (and this year we added Tanglefoot, (aff link) which works even better). We shop vac’ed the egg sacks from the moths. We trapped the male moths (aff link) females are too heavy to fly).
And this year they’re back. Not as bad, but they’re still back. We sprayed again. We taped the trees again. But they’re still everywhere. Not as bad, (and we’re winning – gradually), but still there.
Sooooo… how do I handle that with my kids? Who today wanted to go exploring and dig in the dirt? Despite my visceral reaction, today they found a slug, some pill bugs, a few ants, and then started catching small gypsy moth caterpillars on sticks (it’s not good to touch these caterpillars with your skin – can cause an allergic reaction).
And as personally repulsed I am by these creatures (they look harmless here, but they grow to 2-3 inches long each, poop all over the place, and decimate our trees), they were allowed to giggle as they caught and then released these beasts.
I didn’t want my personal distaste to squelch in any way their joy of discovery. So gypsy moth caterpillars – sure!
We don’t encourage our kids to kill any animals. If bugs are inside, we try to catch and release or we adults take care of it. When outside, we encourage a “live and let live” philosophy, except for mosquitoes. We don’t actively smash or destroy living things in front of them. When they’re older, we’ll help them differentiate between helpful insects and pests, but we want to encourage a cruelty-free response to all living things until then.
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