Invasion of the caterpillars!

April 20, 2017, 6:27 a.m.

A few days ago, I was sitting in my PWR class when the guy next to me tapped on my shoulder. He pointed to the floor, so I assumed his pencil had rolled under my chair or something. I was very wrong. Next to the leg of his chair lay the black, fuzzy creature I’ve come to fear this quarter: the caterpillar.

(Cue cliché horror film soundtrack.)

Invasion of the caterpillars!
(EMILY SCHMIDT/The Stanford Daily)

I’m from the East Coast, so I’m used to humid summers with rampant mosquitoes and droning cicadas. When I enrolled at Stanford, I didn’t expect to face the Ten Plagues. Having survived winter quarter monsoon season, I expected for spring quarter to be all sunshine and daisies. Instead, the campus has been infested by a seemingly infinite number of inch-long caterpillars.

Freshman Disha Dasgupta is already sick of them.

“I do not ever want to see them again. I hate how they’re furry and they’re everywhere. The ones that crawl are bad enough, then they crawl on you and you just want to take a million showers. But the worst ones are the ones that have the audacity to hang from trees. I already struggle with the physical exercise part of biking to class, let alone with the fear of having a fuzzy piece of crap ram into my eye.”

Apparently, the caterpillar invasion is an annual event complete with periodic ceremonial spraying. What exactly are these caterpillars, though?

According to a Daily article from 2012, the number of oak moth and tussock moth caterpillars became so problematic that oak trees around several dorm buildings on east campus were sprayed that spring. Although the caterpillars do not pose an immediate threat to humans, they do harm the trees they inhabit by causing them to lose leaves.

With Admit Weekend looming closer and campus tours visibly increasing, students aren’t the only ones affected by the caterpillars.

“One fell on my mom’s head at Admit Weekend last year, which was funny,” said Melina Walling ’20. “She jumped and swatted it out. I also almost walked into one dangling from a branch the other day. It’s kind of a funny problem because there are just so many of them.”

Just two weeks into spring quarter, the caterpillars have already become legendary. Students have created iconic memes and shared horror stories with visiting ProFros. A friend of mine even spotted a tourist taking a picture of a caterpillar hanging from a tree. Weird, much?


Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’

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