There’s nothing like inclement weather to quite literally make it rain on your parade, and nothing provokes a party pooper quite like literal feces falling from the sky. Unfortunately for the residents of upstate New York, poop rain is very much what’s forecast for the time being as an army of caterpillars have taken to the trees to let one rip.
The defecating animals are gypsy moth caterpillars, an invasive species that is currently experiencing a population explosion. According to a report from New York Post, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has expressed that their numbers are higher now than have been recorded in over a decade, and though they are small, millions of mini butts does a poop storm make.
As they gorge on plant matter devastating the hard-grown foliage of trees, the sound of their collective pooping has been described to be like rain. Perhaps soon, you’ll find a “Caterpillar Defecation” track among your meditative playlists.
As if the situation weren’t already dire enough, gypsy moth caterpillars in themselves are a bit of a handful as they are coated in hairs laced with an irritating substance. While you might be tempted to scoop them up by the fistful to save your car’s windscreen from being showered in sh!t, all you’d likely achieve is being someone with a poop-covered car and sore hands.
Gypsy moths were first brought to the United States in an effort to bolster silk production, but several escapees meant an invasive population was soon established in the wild. As DEC forester Rob Cole said during a Facebook live about the outbreak, the species is feared by environmental scientists for its voracious appetite for all things leafy. Areas where outbreaks like this occur see extensive and devastating degrees of defoliation, which is likely to cause problems for many species within an ecosystem and potentially threaten its balance. You might think that something with such a penchant for plant material wouldn’t be such a problem in urban areas, but you could be wrong.
“Gypsy moth will lay its egg masses on anything outdoors, it doesn’t have to be trees,” explained Cole in the video. “It’ll lay egg masses on the side of your house, on your outdoor equipment, on your patio furniture.”
According to the DEC’s website, gargantuan outbreaks such as this one aren’t unheard of and, interestingly, seem to occur in New York around every ten to 15 years. Historic outbreaks have usually come to an end with a helping hand from disease or predators, but the current poop storm is unlikely to pass until the caterpillars have taken to their cocoons.
Umbrellas at the ready, people of New York.
Update: This article was updated on 22/06/21 after as it had been previously published with a photo of tent worms rather than gypsy moth caterpillars.