It started with only a few – then, there were thousands.
Over the May long weekend in 2017, Tammi Hanowski noticed a couple tent caterpillars crawling near her pool.
Less than a week later, the insects had invaded.
“We were just covered in them,” she said. “I had a video where I had my foot in a bunch of them in the corner of my house and it must have been about six-inches deep.”
Hanowski ended up posting several videos to Facebook, showing tent caterpillars all over the outside walls of her home and garage.
“You couldn’t go out on the deck or barbeque or anything. There was no space to even walk,” she said.
The posts quickly went viral, leaving people across the country and overseas horrified and fascinated.
Even Hanowski had never seen anything like it, having moved only a year earlier with her husband and two children to the acreage in Elkwood Estates, 10 minutes south of Saskatoon.
“We had to actually put our hay tarp over the pool cover to secure it down just so we could stop them from going into the pool,” she said. “My filters were constantly full of them.”
While the tent caterpillars never got into the house, the 42-year-old recalled the family would have to run to get in and out in an effort to avoid them.
The nightmare lasted close to two weeks, before Hanowski got a call from Poulin’s pest control. The company had seen the videos and offered to spray the thousands of caterpillars one Saturday.
The next day, the family spent four hours vacuuming up the dry worms. But the saga wasn’t over, yet.
Arrow Media, a production company based in the United Kingdom, reached out to Hanowski, expressing interest in telling her story as part of a documentary series aptly called Intruders.
Hanowski, her husband and daughter were flown out to Dallas, Texas for interviews shortly afterwards.
“They actually have actors portraying us and then we come on in our little interviewing part and talk about it,” she explained.
Hanowski said parts of the story have been made more dramatic, noting a scene where the family pulls into the garage only to find tent caterpillars up in the rafters.
“Well, that didn’t happen to us,” Hanowski laughed. “But most of it, honestly, is bang on.”
The episode featuring the Saskatoon family has already aired in the United States, and will be shown in Canada on Animal Planet Thursday, May 17, at 8 p.m. CST.
In the meantime, Hanowski said people are already tagging her in posts about tent caterpillars.
As for whether the family is in store for another round of tiny invaders, she noted she has spotted “clumps” – characteristic of the caterpillars egg masses – on trees nearby.
“They’re completely hard and dry and you can snap them in half,” she said.
For those who aren’t able to catch the caterpillars before they hatch, a non-toxic biological spray will help stop major infestations.