Look out!

Look out! (Photo: Didier Descouens/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The scariest thing in the Massachusetts woods right now is furry, starving, and two inches long. The state is currently suffering from a “biblical outbreak” of gypsy moth caterpillars—the largest since 1981, the Boston Globe reports.

Forests are overrun with the fuzzy monsters, which chew through entire trees. “It’s like all-out war,” Brewster resident Jeff Kilburn told the newspaper. “They have invaded and they are taking no prisoners.” (The Globe piece is highly recommended, and contains many more harrowing descriptions of the bugs, their endless, audible snacking, and the resultant showers of frass.)

This year’s boom is surprising, but may be the result of a couple of dry springs in a row, which prevented the growth of a caterpillar-killing fungal pathogen. Without that to keep them in check, the bugs have gone wild.

Other parts of New England have been similarly overrun. The Hartford Courant describes a Connecticut plagued by chewed-up shade cover and house walls solid black with droppings, while the Westerly Sun tells of Rhode Island’s now-gross patios and pool decks.

The bug may even interrupt weekend celebrations: Massachusetts campers are wearing safari hats to protect themselves, and Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has warned Fourth of July revelers to rethink at-home pyrotechnics, for fear of setting the stressed trees ablaze. This summer’s sound of celebration just might be that steady chewing, and the pitter patter of little bug poops.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.