Donna’s Garden Tips – Fall Caterpillar Week!

— Written By Donna Teasley and last updated by
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Fall Caterpillar Week
August 24 – 28, 2020

This week’s garden tips are going to focus on fall caterpillars. With fall not far away, we can always expect an influx of caterpillars in our gardens. There are many fall caterpillars and they are about to start showing up. Each day we’ll take a look at a different caterpillar that you should be on the lookout for in your garden.

Saddleback Caterpillar
This brightly colored caterpillar is one of the stinging caterpillars. It lives on trees, shrubs and weeds around the lawn and garden and when an un-suspecting gardener brushes up against it, they are rewarded with a painful sting from its many bristles. Named for the distinctive saddle pattern on its back, the saddleback is about an inch long at maturity. Chemical control isn’t usually necessary.

saddleback caterpillar on leaf


Fall Army Worms
These fall caterpillars can be present in huge numbers and can eat a lawn or pasture down to the soil in a short period of time. They start out small and reach 1-1 ½ inches at maturity. There can be more than one generation per year and most times the damage is done before they are noticed. Unless stressed, the lawn can usually recover from the damage Some signs that you might have army worms are small moths flying across the lawn or large flocks of birds feeding on the lawn. When noticed, chemical control is usually too late.

lawn damage from army worms

Damage from army worms

Fall Web Worms
These caterpillars make themselves  known by the huge nests they build in the tips of tree branches. The adult moth builds webbing around foliage and then lays many eggs. The foliage provides food for the newly hatched caterpillars. As horrible as the nests might look, the caterpillars do very little damage. Eating foliage in the fall does no harm to the trees. The caterpillars drop to the ground where they overwinter in the soil and start the cycle again next year. Chemical control is not necessary.

tree with web worms on branches

Web Worms

Orangestriped Oakworm
Sporting lengthwise orange or yellow stripes, this colorful caterpillar can be present in alarming numbers. Found in oaks and other hardwoods, they can strip a tree of its foliage. This occurs in late summer and early fall and although it doesn’t look pretty, it doesn’t seem to damage the trees in any way. Because of the large size of trees, chemical control for homeowners is not practical.

orangestriped oakworm on tree leaf

Orangestriped Oakworm

Wooly Bear Caterpillar-We call them wooly worms and they are one of the most recognizable insects we have. Folks always smile when they see a wooly worm because of the belief that they can predict winter weather by the width of the reddish-orange band in the middle of their fuzzy black bodies. They don’t sting, nor do they cause damage. Scientists say they can’t predict the weather but I suspect my Grandma would disagree!

wooly bear caterpillar on wood floor

Wooly Bear Caterpillar