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Fall Webworms

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Date: August 27, 2020
Agent: Donna Teasley

Hello, this is Donna Teasley, horticulture agent with the North Carolina Cooperative
Extension, Burke Center.

This time of year our office is getting many calls about the abundance of large, webby-looking nest in area trees. “What are they and how can we get rid of them?” are the questions everyone is asking.

They are not tent caterpillars but they are fall webworms. Tent caterpillars build their nests in the spring and are found in the crotch of trees while fall webworms build their nests in late summer and are usually located at the ends of the tree limbs, surrounding clusters of leaves.
They pupate overwinter in a cocoon in the soil and begin to emerge in mid-June. As adult moths they lay egg masses on the undersides of leaves. Upon hatching young caterpillars immediately start to build a silken thread nest around foliage on which they feed. After feeding for about 6 weeks the mature larvae return to the soil for the winter.

It all sounds and looks worse than it really is. Because the feeding of the larvae happenings in late summer, no real damage is done to trees. Sufficient food has already been stored to get the tree through the winter so the absence of leaves does no harm to the tree and control is not necessary.

On a cheerier note, did it ever occur to you that if the leaves are eaten by fall webworms, you won’t have to rake them this fall? Just something to think about!

This is Donna Teasley with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Burke Center. If you would like more information about this program you can call us at 764-9480.