Are those spider webs? The spooky worm-filled bags on trees across North Central Florida aren’t giant spider webs or Halloween decorations! They’re none other than Fall Webworms (Hyphantria cunea).
You’ve probably noticed the webs – especially if you travel US 129 between Branford and Live Oak, you can spot them on the Pecan trees right outside of Branford and other native tree species while traveling the road. I’ve noticed them all over trees between Mayo, Lake City, Steinhatchee, Fort White and High Springs as I drive about my daily route.
“While Fall Webworms are busy defoliating a tree and make it extremely unsightly, they don’t kill the tree unless its young or sick. You can often see hundreds of caterpillars in a “bag.” Some folks are even grossed out by the look.” says Ryan Cannon, Lawn Pest Specialist for Live Oak Pest Control. He continues “.. the caterpillars will eat the entire leaf until only the spine is left. They build a bag around themselves while they eat and they generally start their web on the end of branches while Eastern Tent Caterpillars make theirs in the fork of a tree.”
Fall Webworm Facts:
- 1” long and pale-yellow coloring.
- Feed on more than 100 hardwood tree species.
- Webs are found on outer portions of branches.
- “One and done” type of feeders – highly unusual to see them in the same tree year after year especially the same branch.
- Fall Webworms are the larvae of it’s parent, the small white moth, usually seen in summer months.
- Eventually nests break apart, dropping future moths to the ground where the pupae will overwinter in the bark and ground debris. Adult (moths) emerge in late spring, laying hundreds of eggs on leaves and the cycle starts again.