Some Stephenville residents are finding Mother Nature is providing the Halloween decorations in their front yards this year - complete with creepy crawlers.
Webworms seem to be taking over.
According to Forrest Mitchell, associate professor of entomology for the Texas A&M Extension Agency, abundant rains provided for succulent growth on trees for the hairy critters to fill up on.
The fall webworm (named so because that’s when it’s commonly seen) comes from the white or black and white moths drawn to lights at night.
Mitchell said the moths stayed in the area and now there is, “a heck of an infestation.”
“The weather was just right for them,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said if the tree was in good shape previously, then it will most likely survive the defoliation by the caterpillars as long as it has plenty of water.
But the best defense is to take care of them before they cover the tree by cutting out the branch they call home and destroying the bag.
The bag or web they are inside of is their defense against natural predators. Paper wasps and birds find them quite tasty so an alternative would be to slit the bag open where those guys can get to them and feast.
Mitchell said a power washer can be used to knock them out of trees but it’s a method that can also strip the tree, unless your aim is very good, you could end up with more damage.
If that method is chosen, he said some worms will end up on the ground and may move to shrubs. If that happens it may be a little more manageable to use a pesticide such as carbaryl, but label directions should be followed carefully. Mitchell said he doesn’t recommend using pesticides in trees because of the “drift” that can result.
But, if a valuable tree is infested it’s best to call in a professional, he said.
And, he said, the good news is the pesky worms will be gone with the first freeze!
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-965-3124 ,ext. 238.