Army Worms

In Alix, Alberta on May 10, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Army Worms by Jean Bigelow

The year of the army worm – 1909 – was an experience to remember.  We had just moved onto the quarter section which my father, Edward Parlby, had given me.  The depression years were very tough, when every dollar counted if you were lucky enough to have one.

We were hoping for a good vegetable garden, but the army worms took over.  We had noticed a very large number of moths flying over a very weedy field in the fall of the previous year, but never realized they were laying eggs which could hatch out into such pests.

The army worm travels like an army, destroying vegetation as it goes.  When the worms come to an obstacle, such as a telephone pole, they climb up the pole and down the other side, instead of going around.  It was the same with the house, up the walls, across the roof, and down again.  Over in Mirror the train was stopped because the hordes of army worms made the tracks too slippery for the engines to gain traction.  Trees were stripped of their leaves.

My husband, Alec Sheret, dug trenches around the vegetable garden, filled them with hay, and set fire to the hay.  The worms would call to the trench and topple over into the flames, which stopped them in the day time, but at night they marched over the trench and ate everything in sight, even the onions down to the ground.  I hated walking in the long grass as the worms would crawl up my legs, and once when I was phoning my mother I saw a worm crawling down the cord towards my ear!

Alec tried spraying with Paris Green, which killed a great many, but unfortunately killed my poor kitten and a pet hen.  In those days we didn’t know much about pest control and toxic sprays.  “Paris Green” contained arsenic!

This article is taken from Gleanings, (the follow-up book to Pioneers and Progress), Alix-Clive Historical Club, 1981. Both books are available for sale at Alix Wagon Wheel Museum, Alix Public Library, and Alix Home Hardware


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