Traumatic Caterpillar Infestation – The Brown Tail Moth

Okay, so I am still traumatized by the caterpillar infestation we encountered when we were camping in Cape Cod mid-June. It has made me delay posting blog posts for so long that I am going to get it over with first so I can concentrate on the awesome time we had when we were not battling millions of caterpillars…

So, when we checked in at Nickerson State Park, the ranger mentioned “gypsy moth caterpillars”… But when we arrived at our campsite, there were thousands of them! Crawling all over the ground, hanging from trees… If a caterpillar wasn’t dropping on you from the trees, their shredded leaves were instead. They were even eating PINE needles!!!

We went about our normal camping activities, but by mid-week the number had actually increased. Before every meal in our screen tent we would whack the roof, drop hundreds of caterpillars, smush, and two hours later more were back:


As you ate they would continue to drop. Here is a normal “drop zone” before clearing and smushing:

The brush was indispensable

There was truly no escape. It got very overwhelming at times and was hard to relax. By the end we had figured out to wear long pants, roll them into long socks, sweater… Then you could actually enjoy the campfire. And we took down the screen house too. They were far too attracted to it…

It must have felt like climbing a tree

So, that was all fine really. We survived, and we could avoid them during the day as we explored the Cape, but once we arrived home, we started coming out with a rash. Conor was the worst affected. His whole back was covered in a poison ivy-like rash, that didn’t blister… We were perplexed, because we were so careful about avoiding poison ivy. We tried googling caterpillars and poison ivy to see if they can transport oils (???) and that’s when we discovered the Brown Tail Moth, an invasive species from England that is only in small parts of coastal Maine and pockets of Cape Cod. It looks quite like the gypsy moth caterpillar. It gives you a rash by leaving barbs of hair on you. True enough, we remembered some particularly hairy caterpillars that would occasionally “spike” us… So we called Nickerson and asked them to please please let people know that these caterpillars exist. They had never heard of them, and also seemed to think we were saints for camping at our site?? Man, if you knew there was such a problem why didn’t you recommend we move our site??? Crazy stuff…



  1. That certainly was traumatic! I’m still having nightmares about it and I wasn’t even there! You’ve all earned extra scout badges for that experience! šŸ™‚

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