The Friday Nature Review


If you were one of those who got all squeamish reading about the tent caterpillars ravaging our neighborhoods this early summer (here and here), you definitely won’t want to follow this link. Former rock musician Ray Reigstad of Duluth, Minnesota makes wine from tent caterpillars. Yes, he does. Or at least, he did. I’m four years behind this story and if his neighborhood has followed the typical 3-year tent caterpillar cycle he’ll be looking for a different pest to ferment right now.

Still, it makes fascinating reading. How did he do it? According to a story in the Duluth News Tribune,

Reigstad and his girlfriend began by gathering forest tent caterpillars in the Fish Lake area in mid-June. They waited until the end of the caterpillars’ feasting cycle when they were big. Using a whisk broom, they swept masses of worms from tree limbs into clean 6-gallon plastic buckets. When they had about seven pounds of worms in each bucket, Reigstad poured boiling water on them, killing them instantly.

A five-gallon bucket of tent caterpillars…

After removing debris that surfaced, Reigstad mashed the army worms up a bit. He added sugar, campden tablets, yeast and other ingredients before covering the bucket and leaving it to ferment.

“It starts bubbling and smelling like rotting fruit,” he said, explaining that that’s normal.

At the end of a week, Reigstad scooped out the caterpillars with a kitchen strainer and threw them away.

In case you’re wondering, my vegetarian sensibilities far outweigh my enthusiasm for such a wine. Still, my thanks to my fellow NYC expat and tent caterpillar student, Mark Lerner, for the link.

…Makes 11 gallons of Army Worm Wine.



Forget the tent caterpillars, forget snakes on a plane, it’s that time of year when the bears come into town to enjoy the local harvest. I’ve had them lumber across the road in front of my car late at night. I’ve had one wait for me at the finish line of the Escarpment Trail while I was training for the summer race. But this last week, as the kids have returned to school, they’ve come down from the woods and more or less into our homes. We had one come on our deck the other night and move a bench several feet so he could get at a bag of barbeque coals; we can tell they’ve been climbing through our pear tree; and just last night one dragged a bag of garbage across the lawn down in Phoenicia to rummage through it and help himself to old pizza. (Pet hate: cleaning up other people’s rubbish first thing in the morning.)

Bear sighting are so commonplace in Phoenicia right now you kind of expect a grizzly to walk into Sweet Sue’s, plonk himself in a booth and order a plate of pancakes. Just yesterday evening, a motorcuclist outside the supermarket pointed out a big black bear wondering through the village just a few feet away from us. “Must be about 250lbs,” he said, admiringly. “I like to hunt,” he continued, without my asking. “But I don’t kill bears. They don’t taste good.” Ah, but does caterpillar wine?

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September 2022