Caterpillars! Ugh! The onslaught of caterpillars have been horrible this year in New England. They have caused extensive damage to oak trees, maples, cherry trees,and crab apple trees. I have seen them on rhododendron, beech and azalea shrubs and even pine trees. They have eaten most of the leaves off the trees.
If you stand under a tree, you can hear them. The black dots are their poop and you can hear it hitting the ground. They are everywhere and make sitting outside an endurance in peeling them off your legs and furniture.
They are the larvae form of the winter moth we saw flying around last fall. The females are wingless and will lay about 150 eggs in the crevice of trees. In late April and early May, they hatch and then crawl into the buds of the tree and start eating. They can eat all the leaves off a tree fairly quickly. The tree will grow a second set of leaves but this really stresses the trees and they need lots of water to do this.
It’s too late now to do anything but wait for them to go into the ground and pupate and come out as moths around Thanksgiving. They are starting to disappear little by little.
The time to spray is in April and May. You can hire an arborist or purchase a product with spinsod in it as the active ingredient. It s is approved for organic gardening.
There has beensome success in Canada with parasitic flies released to keep the populations down. Flies have been released in parts of Massachusetts and several more release sites are being added.
Hopefully they will be gone soon and the trees will survive from their onslaught. It will be nice to enjoy sitting outside without these annoying visitors.
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