Far and near, not only are the Wild Cherry trees, already infested with the odious black knot, left to spread a second plague among the fruit-trees, but whole orchards are allowed to bear unmolested swarms of caterpillars, their owners preferring to sacrifice their apples rather than take the trouble to clean their trees of the webs.
Since the State of Massachusetts has taken the Gypsy Moth in hand, why should not communities take charge of their own worms, and enforce the destruction of the webs by each land-owner, under penalty of a fine, while the street commissioners be made to attend to the trees bordering the highway?
The farmers who neglect this rapidly increasing nuisance seem to me like the Turk who sits under a crumbling wall, murmuring, "God is great! if it falls it falls!" and takes no pains to get out of the way.
So far as our own little farm is concerned, some tall Wild Cherry trees that we depend on for a screen give us timely notice of the arrival of the pest, and bring us all out promptly to do battle. The worms are fought with fire on the end of a pole, with a tall clipping knife, and with a wire brush attached to the end of a long bamboo rod, which reaches to the very top of the tallest trees, where, being judiciously twisted, it brings down a crop of crawlers for more positive destruction below. The clipping is the most thorough method, for, if done late in the evening, the nest, with all its occupants, can be secured and its contents burned or trampled to death. In this way all the insects can be destroyed, but, of course, it is only possible where the web is on the end of a small branch. Where it lies in the great crotches, the torch or the wire brush must be applied; but the former lets some escape, and I am told that when the nests are burned, the fire shrivels the outside of the crawling mass, which falls with the web to the ground, but the caterpillars in the heart of the living ball escape, to crawl up the tree again and start afresh upon their depredations.
It is of no use to think that you have accomplished your purpose because, after heroic labor, there seems not a vestige of a nest remaining. No sooner do you feel that you have routed the last encampment of the enemy than, presto! his tents are once more like those of the Assyrian for multitude, and in a day or two you must resume your round to find the enemy bigger and brisker than ever. About three months of the season have to be given up to the two campaigns, spring and fall, till finally a person of imagination begins to feel that the philosopher's prediction is about to be fulfilled, and that the worm has come to stay.
"Of what use are the Cherry-trees?" say the wise; " the worm, after all, is not so bad as the black knot, and compared to the canker-worm he is harmless: "but the terror of his multiplication is upon me, and I live in fear of the day when, having ruined all the fruit-trees, and having failed to find the shade-trees to his liking, the worm may take a fancy to investigate within-doors to find a more tempting meal.