The iconic sign that spring is around the corner has to be the sudden presence of bugs across the province. From flies to spiders to horrifying centipedes, it's basically the most reliable way to confirm winter has officially ended. One insect that's often well received across the province is the caterpillar. Why? Well, they're cute and fluffy, they don't attack humans with stings or bites (usually), and they turn into butterflies.
Your feelings about the "harmless" bugs might come to an end this year, however, as a dangerous caterpillar infestation is expected across Quebec this spring. Why is it so dangerous, you ask? Two words: mass defoliation. The adorable critters actually pose a major threat to native tree species in the province and they're basically impossible to eliminate from the country.
TL;DR Forest tent caterpillars are expected to infest Quebec this spring due to the prime topography in provincial forests for the bugs to thrive, as well as the weather conditions this spring and summer. The insect are nortorious for defoliating native tree species across the country, and often arrive in giant clusters. More detail below.
Just last year residents in Saskatchewan panicked as forest tent caterpillars, which are native to Canada, hatched from eggs and totally infested the homes of unsuspecting people.
Just so you get an idea of how badly defoliation can get due to caterpillar infestation, 150,000 hectares were defolitated by the forest tent caterpillar in 2009, alone. Historically, tree species such as aspen, oak, maple, and white birch are at most risk each spring.
So, what makes this spring a major risk for another hit by the dangerous caterpillars? The insect population is partially dependant on weather conditions and makes use of flat topography to disperse across forests. With both Quebec and Ontario having relatively flat forest floors compared to the west and favourable summer conditions for caterpillar hatchlings, the infestation is unavoidable.
Although birds and rodents typically keep the population under control, there will be the typical "clusters" across the province that will totally freak you out.
On the bright side, at least that means spring is here to stay!