Wednesday, September 06, 2006

a word about webworm

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Fall webworms are all over the trees this year.  I am noticing them and thinking back to last spring when the tent caterpillars were everywhere. Evidently, it has been a good year for caterpillars.
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I took this picture of the Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum (Fabricius) in May.  They would come out of the tent several times a day to feed on the tree.  I decided to revisit the tree that they were feeding on to see what kind of damage they had done.  It was not very bad. I left the tent caterpillars alone this spring because I observed a Baltimore oriel coming regularly to the tent to feed on them...but I want to be rid of them for next year, as I don't want them to spread.  In order to make sure they will not be back, you need to kill off the egg mass
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The egg mass was already visible on the tree when I went back to see what kind of damage they had done.  I removed it with my pruning shears.  When winter arrives, I will search surrounding trees for more egg masses which will be easier to see when the leaves are gone.
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The other defoliator that hangs in the trees now is called the Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea (Drury).  These caterpillar larvae feed inside the protection of their tent.
I remember as a child, watching my father and grandfather light these tents on fire with a kero soaked rag on a stick.  It was fascinating to watch the caterpillars drop to the ground, and I remember thinking  that the tree must have been quite happy to have the ugly nest removed.  I have since read that this can be more detrimental to the tree than the I decide to use the pruners on these too. 
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I also read somewhere, that one could simply destroy the tent and webworms by depositing the whole mess inside the chicken run for the  hens to devour.  Wonderful idea...only my hens decided that they were not dealing with it.  They shook their heads and walked away from the branch when I offered it.  I decided to cut open the silken web, so they had a clear shot of the caterpillars inside, but still no-go.  Finally, I offered one up on the water melon rind the hens had been cleaning up, and still the worm was rejected.
hummm...ultimately I threw the nest in the fire pit.


Judith said...

I join the hens in the opinion that these caterpillars would not be tasty. Nope, water melon rind won't work either--no disguises. What fabulous photos you took! The ETC back in May did a lot of damage in my area. I thought I saw a fall webworm nest in a tree the other day. It is work to try to keep up with them.

Melodie said...

I have to laugh, Cyn. I know your chickens get table leavings, and you are a very good cook! I think they are spoiled. I can almost hear them: "Ewwwwww, i don't THINK so - i will wait for some of tonight's leftovers."

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