Web-Worms and Prevention

Fall brings cooler weather pretty leaves and  those horrible webs that seem to cover the trees and deter from the pretty leaves.

 

Commonly referred to as bagworms or webworms.  Hyphantria cunea are the type of webworms that make their appearance during late summer and autumn.

 

The Good News                      autumn-oak-foliage

The good news is these little guys don’t generally  hurt the trees, and are just more of an aesthetic problem. Webworms only munch on the leaves of the tree, which is already about to go dormant for the winter and shed it’s leaves anyway.

 

The Bad News               20160921_151813

The bad news is that webworms range from south Canada across the U.S. and love just about every kind of hardwood tree. Hickory, oak, pecan, even redbud and some fruit trees. The list goes on encompassing almost all deciduous trees.

 

Appearance

More than likely before the worm or adult moth is spotted we will notice the nest. Nests are composed of spider like string thread that is woven together with twigs, leaf debris and excrement from the worms. They gradually become larger and encompass more leaves, the larger nests can reach up to 3 feet.

 

The adult moth is most commonly white with darker spots on the wings.

 

Caterpillars can grow up to 1 inch long and colors vary by climate and location. Most caterpillars  have a yellow to green colored body with a mottled strip or two running running along the length of them. Their heads can range in color from black to a reddish hue.  

 

Life Cycle                       sack-worms

 

The eggs are laid on the underside of leaves. Clutches contain a couple hundred eggs that hatch out in about a week. Young caterpillars build their own webs while they feed on leaves. This stage will last about a month and a half. As winter comes closer the grown caterpillar weaves a dark brown  cocoon about ⅜ of an inch long either in leaf debris or under some loose bark. It will survive the winter in its pupa form.  

 

Webworm Control

 

More often than not little is done to control these pests. Expert opinion is that they cause little damage to trees, that are preparing to shed their leaves and go dormant for the winter. So why not let them be.

 

Tree safety aside making your home in a tall tree and out of reach keeps most humans from braving the awkward scenario of removing them. But what if some of us do want to remove them from interrupting our fall leaf experience.      wren-feeding-young

 

  • Natural Enemies. Webworms have a lot of them. Including birds, if you can reach a web  cut it open to give birds easy access.
  • Make Your Yard More Bird Friendly.  Adding bird feeders, houses and baths will help you attract mother nature’s first line of defense.
  • Keep Trees Pruned. Pruning dead branches will help deter them especially if you use pest spray afterwards 
  • Keep Debris Picked UP. Leaf and other fall debris provide hiding places for insects, and prevent natural predators from getting an opening.

     

  • Sevin Dust or other farm powder can be used as soon as you notice a problem and repeat 10-14 days later. The construction on the web makes nests water resistant and prevents most sprays from penetrating.

     

  • Let Them Be.

Companion Gardening

help prevent garden pests without chemicals

help prevent garden pests without chemicals

We started learning about, and using companion gardening about seven years ago. It is a very easy, time saving and cost effective method to keep your garden happy and cut out a lot of chemicals. There are a lot of great books and the internet is full of resources about the practice. I wish we had started doing it sooner.

To break it down companion gardening is simply growing plants that are beneficial to each other in the same location. In some cases one plant may repel pest that commonly affect another plant, or a certain plant may grow deeper roots and deposit nutrients and minerals that another plant needs. Some vegetables or herbs may even make others taste better or increase yield. This is the way our grandparents did it, and now it is nearly a lost art. Lucky for us thanks to the trendy new green movement this practice is making a come.

Planting tomatoes and basil near each other is a good example of companion gardening. The basil’s strong smell repels unwanted insects from the tomatoes, and in return the tomatoes provide shade for the basil as they mature. Some people also believe that basil makes their tomatoes taste better (kind of makes since I add basil to almost everything I cook with tomatoes).

On the other hand it is important to realize that not all plants should be grown near each other. We learned this the hard way in our home vegetable  garden. One year we ended up with spicy banana peppers because we planted them to close to jalapenos. The nearby bell peppers suffered the same fate and the jalapenos came out sweet. Cross pollination in the works, but lesson learned and we won’t be doing that again.

Marigolds and other flowers provide benefits as much as veggies and other herbs do. Incorporating flower  borders around your vegetable garden is a great idea. This concept adds a lot of of appeal and turns an otherwise visually boring vegetable garden into a landscaping masterpiece. Most visitors will never know how hard those gorgeous marigolds or nasturtiums are working to protect your crop from aphids and other pests.

I love companion gardening it costs less and helps make my garden be more self sustaining, which saves us time and worry. We have less little critters eating our valuable produce before we can get to. I don’t have to worry about my chickens getting into all of those chemicals that would otherwise inevitably wash out into my whole yard.  Top that off with giving my whole yard a cozy cottage appeal, and giving the birds and butterflies more reason to stay.

Here are some of the combinations we use in our garden. There are many more and to be honest I can’t remember a lot of them or the exact reason why we plant things where we do any more it just works and we haven’t had hornworms in our tomatoes for years.

 

Tomatoes by Basil and marigolds

Beans go with just about anything

Mint deters mice and aphids we plant it all over (be careful it spreads fast)

Broccoli by Oregano

Bell Peppers by Tomatoes

Sage goes well with Broccoli and Cauliflower plus the bees love when it blooms

Strawberries and Thyme go well together if you have a worm problem

Hot Peppers no where near the Sweet Peppers

Catnip and eggplant to deter flea beetles

Cucumbers and radishes

Cilantro and spinach

Garlic and roses help keep japanese beetles away

 

Positive little critters that will prey on the more destructive ones

Yarrow brings in bees

Camille bring in wasps

Angelica attracts lady beetles and lacewings