Monday, July 12, 2010

Bagworms



The bag worms have reached a epic proportions this summer and for the first time they seem to have attacked the Elms. In recent years they were seen predominately on the Bald Cypress and Evergreens, but usually not in enough numbers to kill the tree. However this year many Elm trees have been stripped bare of all leaves, succumbing to the worms presence. A particularly nasty pest, a bagworm can actually kill its host by sucking the life out of it as it moves through its life cycle. Bagworms begin to build their signature case shortly after hatching and their only purpose is to grow within the case, pupate into an ugly and dreadful little moth, then mate before dying. The cases grow as the worm develops for they continue to add plant material mixed with their own damaging silk for their entire life. A tree infested with bagworms will exhibit increasingly damaged foliage as more and more of it is consumed by these camouflaged eating machines.

Eradication is difficult with many solutions involving poisonous chemicals that should never be used in our fragile environment. It may help to sever a limb from the tree forcing it to send out a ‘distress call’ to save itself and therefore exude an extract distasteful to the worms, causing them to vacate. Hand picking is the best solution and it is immensely satisfying to use an inexpensive pair of plastic-handled scissors to cut them in half and watch them suffer. Happy picking!