I've seen pictures of these pests that my friends post on Facebook and the DNR confirms that Forest Tent Caterpillars, or 'Army Worms' are making themselves known again this year.  But, according to a story from the Minneapolis-Star Tribune , this is just a setup for what is expected to be a major outbreak in a few years. They set a record in 2002-03, clearing 7.5 million acres of hardwood trees of their leaves in central and northern Minnesota.

The Department of Natural Resources will begin aerial surveys of Minnesota forests next week to track the caterpillars and other pests. It will be the 58th summer for the survey, which involves a plane flying a grid pattern at 1,500 feet over wooded areas.

If it wasn't for the damage they do to farmer's crops, I'd say, bring on 'the big one'!  Sure it's gross, an inconvenience, and creates horror stories of slippery roads and the inevitable moth infestations at summers end, but it also creates memories and the bonding of our tough community.

These squishy friends are native to Minnesota.  I still remember being a little kid with my dad in Hermantown one really bad army worm summer where they were absolutely everywhere.  We'd hear them pop under our tires as we road our bikes, we'd hear them munch of leaves through the woods, and we decided to wage war.  We collected as many as we could into an old rusty red wagon and then my dad poured some lighter fluid over them and light it on fire.  It was our way to fight a losing battle, but I will always remember that summer.

Even though this year won't be the worst, you can still prep your trees, thanks to this story Cathy Kates shared recently.