Worms & CaterpillarsAugust Pest of the Month.

Worms & Caterpillars

Worms are good for soil health but they can also be detrimental to grass and even shrubbery! They help aerate the soil and make sure it is good for growing healthy plants. Most caterpillars feed at night on turfgrasses including and not limited to: Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede and Bahai grasses. Worms also make excellent fishing freshwater bait!

An Important Notice from Live Oak Pest Control: In 2014 we saw appearances by all of the worms and caterpillars listed below. The most devastating worm our Lawn Specialists encountered in 2014 was the Tropical Sod Web Worm.

In 2015 we're expecting Tropcial Sod Web Worms and Fall Army Worms to make even more appearances and be even worse than last year mainly because of all of the rain fall we've received this year. Below we will explore just a few of the damaging worms and caterpillars that you can find in your yard.

  • Azalea Caterpillar
    Azalea Caterpillar General Appearance & Facts:

    Azalea CaterpillarAzalea Caterpillars are found in North Central Florida primarily from July to October on Azaleas. The Azalea Caterpillar will not hurt humans even though it looks hairy and can be plucked off the shrub by hand. (photo to the left courtesy of: KWixted on Flickr, Photographer: Kerry Wixted)

    • Eggs are deposited by the female moth in late spring; 80 - 100 eggs under the leaf.
    • First instar (young) caterpillars are 3/8" long. They are yellow with 7 horizontal stripes and a black head.
    • The adult Azalea Caterpillar is about 2 inches long, predominately black with yellow horizontal stripes.
    • Adult Azalea Caterpillars can be identified by their red heads and legs.
    • If the Azalea Caterpillar is disturbed they will often raise its front and rear ends into the air.
    • They will also drop one or two inches below the infested leaf and hang by a silk thread if disturbed.
    • Adult Azalea Caterpillar Moths (Datana major) are light brown and have a wing span of 1.75"
    Azalea Caterpillar Signs & Symptoms:

    Most of the time, the Azalea Caterpillar is not detected until much of the shrub is eaten or defoliated.

    • The leaves on an infected plant from an Azalea Caterpillar will dry up, turn brown & remain on the plant for several days before falling off.
    • Young Azalea Caterpillars skeletonize the leaves making the leaf transparent while adult caterpillars eat the entire leaf.
    • Large and small Azalea Caterpillars feed in groups.
    • When disturbed they raise their head for defense however they do not bite or sting.
    • In late spring, look on the underside of Azalea leaves for tiny white eggs. These eggs are deposited by the female moth which will lay 80 - 100 eggs at a time.
    Azalea Caterpillar Habitat:

    The Azalea Caterpillar can mostly be found on Azaleas. According to the University of Florida's Entomology Department the Azalea Caterpillar has been spotted on Blueberry plants in Delaware, Red Oak in Maryland and Apple trees in the Mid-Atlantic States.

    Azalea Caterpillar Life Cycle:

    Eggs are laid on the underside of Azalea leaves in the late spring. Normally around 80 - 100 eggs are laid by the Azalea Caterpillar Moth. In late July these eggs hatch and the young caterpillars begin feeding on the underside of leaves. They begin eating slow and then will eat the entire leaf. When the Azalea Caterpillar has matured it has a red head and legs with a black body with rows of yellow spots and white hairs.

    If you are experiencing Azalea Caterpillar problems give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Tropical Sod Web Worm
    Tropical Sod Web Worm General Appearance & Facts:

    Tropical Sod Web WormTropical Sod Web Worms are a grayish-green color and have brown spots on each segment.

    The photo to the left is of the Tropical Sod Web Worm Moth. (photo to the left courtesy of: Cayobo on Flickr)

    Tropical Sod Web Worm Photograph

    • Mature larvae of Tropical Sod Web Worms are 3/4 to 1 inch long and they pupate (leave the cocoon as from a young pupae) in the grass thatch or soil surface.
    • The Tropical Sod Web Worm caterpillar is a translucent green with small dark spots on each segment and has a yellowish-brown head.
    • Tropical Sod Web Worms prefer to feed on bluegrass and hybrid Bermuda grass.
    • They will eat almost anything and can be found in (and munching on) lawns, golf courses, clovers, corn, tobacco, bluegrass, timothy and even pastures and field grass.
    • Adults are tan to gray colored moths with a wingspan of 3/4 to 1 inch; do not cause damage.
    • The adult moths hide in shrubs and other covered areas during the day and fly low when disturbed.
    • Adult female moths lay clusters of 6 - 15 white eggs on grass blades at night.
    • Adult moths are a dingy brown color with a wing span of 3/4".
    Tropical Sod Web Worm Signs & Symptoms:

    As mentioned before caterpillars feed at night on turf grass. Grass blades will usually look jagged and rough as the tissue is removed from the edges until the caterpillar eats the entire blade.

    • Caterpillars cut off the grass blade right above the thatch line and eats the grass in their underground tunnel.
    • Affected turf will appear spotty (sometimes brown spots) and damaged areas will enlarge as the caterpillars search for more food.
    • Heavily injured grass may die however normally recovers
    • St. Augustine grass when affected recovers slower than Bermuda grass.
    • Normally with a Tropical Sod Web Worm infestation you will see many low-flying moths around your lawn.
    • During the early Spring the larvae feed on the upper root system of grass as well as the stems and blades.
    • The most damage occurs in July and August when grass is not growing fast. During the hot weather caterpillars feed at night or on cloudy days.
    Tropical Sod Web Worm Habitat:

    The Tropical Sod Web Worm can be found eating at night on almost anything. This caterpillar feeds on lawns, golf courses, clovers, corn, tobacco, bluegrass, field grass and turfgrasses such as Bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, centipedegrass, Bahiagrass and Zoysiagrass.

    Tropical Sod Web Worm Life Cycle:

    Female moths lay clusters of eggs (up to 15 eggs) on grass blades, stems and turf debris. Tiny worms about 1/32" long hatch from eggs in about 6 - 10 days. Over the course of 6 weeks the worm will go through all stages of maturity from egg to adult.

    If you are experiencing Tropical Sod Web Worm problem give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Fall Armyworm
    Fall Armyworm General Appearance & Facts:

    Fall Armyworm mothThe Fall Armyworm caterpillar is either green or brown and are 1.5 inches long. As the armyworm grows it develops light stripes horizontally and dark spots on the top of each segment.

    The photo to the left is of the Tropical Sod Web Worm Moth. (photo to the left courtesy of: John B. on Flickr, Photographer: Dendroica cerulea)

    Fall Armyworm Photograph

    • Easily identify a Fall Armyworm by the light colored "Y" on their head.
    • Armyworms pupate in the soil.
    • Adult female (moths) are almost all gray while males are gray and brown with white spots near the center of the wing and near the tip.
    • Female moths lay approximately 50 - 150 eggs along grass blades and even on non-plant surfaces. Some females lay a layer of grayish between the eggs and over the mass; making it look furry or moldy.
    • Adults (moths) are strong fliers and are capable of traveling long distances; found in states east of the Rocky Mountains.
    • Fall Armyworm moths are abundant here in Florida from April through December.
    Fall Armyworm Signs & Symptoms:

    When the Fall Armyworm is in abundance they defoliate much of the plant or preferred host and acquire the "armyworm" habit; disperse in large numbers consuming nearly everything in their path. The Fall Armyworm is not picky and will eat almost anything; with over 80 plants recorded that it eats.

    • The larvae (worm) causes damage by consuming the foliage and young larvae eat the leaf tissue on one side.
    • It will eventually make holes in leaves and eat from the edge of the leaf, inward.
    • Most of the time, when the Armyworms are in abundance only 1 or 2 will feed on the same plant because they will devour the plant quickly.
    • Older larvae cause extensive damage often only leaving the ribs and stalks of corn plants.
    Fall Armyworm Habitat:

    The Fall Armyworm can be found in most southern states including Florida. It will eat mostly anything and prefers lush, green well-fertilized Bermudagrass. The Fall Armyworm also feeds on field corn, sweet corn, sorghum, Bermuda grass and even grass weeds such as crabgrass. They are often found eating field crops such as alfalfa, Bermuda grass, cotton, corn, peanuts, ryegrass, soybean, and other field crops are often damaged.

    Fall Armyworm Life Cycle:

    The adult female moth will lay up to several hundred eggs at night on light-colored surfaces such as fence rails, tree trunks and the underside of tree limbs. Eggs are light gray and fuzzy and will hatch within 2 - 4 days. The young caterpillar will spin down to the ground from a silken web and begin to feed. The larvae (young caterpillars) are light-colored with a black-head and as they mature will vary in color from a light green to almost black with stripes along the body. From egg to fully grown larvae takes about 2 to 3 weeks where they will then burrow into the soil and to form pupae. Moths will emerge about 10 to 14 days later.

    If you are experiencing Fall Armyworm problem give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Eastern Tent Caterpillar
    Eastern Tent Caterpillar General Appearance & Facts:

    Eastern Tent CaterpillarIn February or March, larvae emerge and builds their silken tents among the branches and leaves or trees. They get their name from the silken tent-like structure that they live in. They will come out of their shelter each day and feed on nearby leaves only leaving the midrib. (photo to the left courtesy of: WoodlyWonderWorks on Flickr)

    • Full grown caterpillars are 2 to 2.5 inches long, have a black head and their body is covered with long, light brown hair. It has a white stripe on its back bordered with yellow, brown & black wavy lines.
    • Adult moths are reddish brown with white stripes.
    • FAs the caterpillar grows they expand their tent.
    • Eventually the Eastern Tent Caterpillar larvae will build a cocoon within their tent and about two weeks later the adult moth appears and starts mating.
    • Female moths lay eggs on branches of trees and starts the lifecycle all over.
    • The egg masses of Eastern Tent Caterpillars are very distinctive; they will wrap around the twig or limb much like a bun around a hotdog.
    • Egg masses contain hundreds of eggs and usually appear shiny as if it were varnished.
    Eastern Tent Caterpillar Signs & Symptoms:

    The Eastern Tent Caterpillar feeds on many hardwood trees; it does not kill the tree however can lose twigs or branches as well as leaves.

    • Look for a tent-like structure within the forks of tree branches.
    • Full-grown caterpillars can be seen laying in the tent or eating on nearby leaves.
    • They prefer to build their tents in wild cherry, crabapple, plum and peach trees.
    • The tent is always built in a location that gets early morning sun.
    • The Eastern Tent Caterpillar is a nuisance but not dangerous to humans because it is unattractive in landscapes and can almost completely defoliate a tree.
    • Although it can eat a lot of the trees foliage, the tree normally recovers and disperses new leaves.
    Eastern Tent Caterpillar Habitat:

    Eastern Tent Caterpillars prefer to feed on the leaves of Cherry, Plum, Peach, Apple, Hawthorn and related plant species. They can quickly defoliate sections of a tree and if they've ate a lot of it, they may move to a less preferred plant. (photo to the left courtesy of: Larry and Teddy Page on Flickr)

    Eastern Tent Caterpillar Life Cycle:

    The winter is spent as a hard mass of eggs that encircle a twig. Larvae hatch in early spring just as the plants leaf out (mid-February to mid-March). Caterpillars develop through several stages (instars) before leaving the host plant to pupate in a cocoon. There is only one generation per year of tent caterpillars. Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

    If you are experiencing Eastern Tent Caterpillar problems give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Grub Worms
    Grub Worms General Appearance & Facts:

    Grub WormsGrubworms are "C"-shaped and have a brown head and a cream colored body. When they are found in the soil they are normally always found in the "C" shape. Adult grubworm beetles are better known as June Beetles and are about a half inch long and brown in color. (photo to the left courtesy of: UnitedDiversity on Flickr)

    • Female June Beetles lay around 30 - 40 eggs and usually avoid heavily watered turf.
    • Grubs have three pairs of legs and their rear end may appear dark since soil can be seen through the body; it's a little translucent.
    • They are approximately 1 to 1.5 inches long.
    • Adult beetles are seen in the spring and deposit their eggs in 3 - 5 inches of soil. 3 - 4 weeks later, small grubs (larvae) emerge and begin feeding on grass roots immediately.
    • When the winter months come, Grubworms move deep into the soil until the springtime comes and they begin to feed on the roots once again.
    Grub Worms Signs & Symptoms:

    Grubworms prefer to feed on turf grass and prefer St. Augustine and Bermuda grass; they feed on the roots and other underground plant parts and are a real pest! Grubs also feed on the roots of weeds, vegetables and other ornamental plants.

    • Grubs attack and feed on grass roots which will kill turf.
    • Grubworm infestations cause lawns to turn yellow and die.
    • They are often seen while tilling up soil or planting a garden.
    • Severely damaged grass may feel spongy and can be "rolled-up" like a carpet because there are no roots attaching it to the soil.
    • Visible damage can be seen in the late summer months when the grass is most stressed.
    • The most severe damage is caused by large grubs normally during the fall and spring.
    • Another sign of a grubworm infestation is holes from raccoons, skunks, birds and rodents that feed on grubs.
    • To prevent serious turf damage have a lawn care specialist examine your lawn in April and August of each year.
    Grub Worms Habitat:

    Grub worms like to feed on turfgrasses such as Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. They also like to feed on the roots of weeds, ornamental and vegetable plants. (photo to the left courtesy of: Robstephaustralia on Flickr, Photogher: Rob & Stephanie Levy)

    Grub Worms Life Cycle:

    Adult beetles emerge in the springtime and the females will tunnel underground to lay their eggs. In about 3 to 4 weeks small (larvae) grubs hatch and go develop through 3 stages (instars). During the third instar grub worms will burrow 3 to 6 inches deep and begin to pupate into adult beetles over the course of three weeks.

    If you are experiencing Grub Worm problems give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Fall Web Worm
    Fall Web Worm General Appearance & Facts:

    Fall webwormThe Adult Fall Web Worm moth is all white and appears fuzzy. Here in Florida, the adult moth can have dark brown spots and their front legs are orange or bright yellow. Adult moths have a wingspan of 1.4 - 1.7 inches. Adult moths are seen from May to August while they lay their eggs. (photo to the left courtesy of: LMRitchie on Flickr, Photographer: Laura Ritchie)

    • The eggs of Fall Web Worm moths are an iridescent green and the batch can contain in upwards of 400 - 1,000 eggs.
    • The eggs are normally laid on the underneath of leaves in the spring.
    • Once the larvae hatch (into a worm) they begin spinning a silk tent and place the web over single leaves.
    • Mature larvae are hairy and have a lime green body with black spots or have darker color.
    • The Fall Web Worm head can either be black or red; the black-headed larvae are thought to be prevalent in northern climates while red-headed larvae are thought to be dominant in the south.
    Fall Web Worm Signs & Symptoms:

    The Fall Web Worm is a true pest to a number of ornamental trees, shrubs and various agricultural crops. The larvae feed in huge nests and can completely defoliate trees and shrubs! This pest is native to North America and has invaded Europe and Asia and is now well studied.

    • The Fall Web Worm feed on leaves and only leave the mid-rib.
    • Fall Web Worms feed on a wide range of plants and trees.
    • They prefer hickory, persimmon, pecan, walnut, elm, alder, willow, mulberry, oak, sweetgum and poplar trees.
    • The Fall Web Worm causes serious damage to commercial Pecan growers.
    • As the worm grows and matures it will continue to devour leaves and expand their webs.
    Fall Web Worm Habitat:

    The Fall Web Worm will feed on the leaves of hickory, mulberry, oak, pecan, redbud, sweetgum and willow trees. They will also eat ornamental, fruit and nut tree leaves. Fall Web Worms prefer to feed on the tender part of leaves not eating the veins or mid-rib.

    Fall Web Worm Life Cycle:

    Adult moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves in the springtime after the host plant has developed their new leaves. Caterpillars hatch and begin to feed on leaves and spin a web around where they feed. The Fall Web Worm goes through 11 instars (stages) before becoming an adult moth.

    If you are experiencing Fall Web Worm problems give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Oleander Caterpillar
    Oleander Caterpillar General Appearance & Facts:

    Oleander CaterpillarThe Oleander Caterpillar is a bright orange caterpillar with long black hairs. It is common to find them on Oleanders in Florida and southern Georgia.

    On the photo to the left notice the leaf damage (top right has been ate completely and the bottom right has been skeletonized.) (photo to the left courtesy of: Cayobo on Flickr)

    • Is the only caterpillar that causes concern on the Oleander plant.
    • In South Florida and the Keys, the Oleander Caterpillar can be found year round. In North and Central Florida they recolonize every spring.
    • The adult moth stage is often called the "polka-dot wasp moth" because of their resemblance to wasps. The moth body and wings are very colorful; iridescent blue/green with small white dots.
    • Adult Oleander Caterpillar moths are slow fliers and active during the day which is different than most moths that are nocturnal.
    • Eggs can be found in clusters on the underside of Oleander leaves. The eggs are pale cream to a light yellow in color and are spherical in shape.
    • The Oleander Caterpillar is not harmful to humans even though they look dangerous.
    • Birds and other wildlife do not feed on these caterpillars too much because of their poisonous diet.
    Oleander Caterpillar Signs & Symptoms:

    The Oleander Caterpillar can cause massive defoliation throughout Florida. Early infestation can be spotted rather easily. The young larvae turn newly produced Oleander shoots a light brown color due to skeletonizing the leaf.

    • Most of the time Oleander Caterpillars leave the major and minor leaf veins alone while eating the tissue in between.
    • Looking at the underside of brown leaves or leaves just below the damaged ones will probably show a small group of larvae.
    • This caterpillar can cause a massive amount of defoliation and will not kill the plant but if the pest returns year after year and feeds on the same plant it will become more susceptible to other pests.
    • Some other pests such as stink bugs, wasps, tachinid flies and fire ants feed on Oleander Caterpillar larvae and pupae.
    Oleander Caterpillar Habitat:

    The Oleander Caterpillar is predominately found feeding on Oleander plants.

    Oleander Caterpillar Life Cycle:

    Adult moths lay their eggs on the underside of leaves in young growing shoots of Oleander plants. Egg clusters can contain from 12 to 75 eggs. The first instar can hatch within 2 to 6 days and will eat the shell of their egg. The second and third instars will generally feed on the underside of leaves, moving down the plant. The forth instar begins to eat the entire leaf rather than just the underside and are often alone. During instars 4 through 6, the Oleander Caterpillar can defoliate the entire Oleander bush. During the sixth instar, the mature caterpillar larva leaves the Oleander plant to pupate into an adult moth.

    If you are experiencing Oleander Caterpillar problems give us a call today at (386) 362-3887 to let a Lawn Care Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

  • Bagworms
    Bagworms General Appearance & Facts:

    BagwormsPeople will generally see Bagworms hanging on the walls (inside the home) and also in trees in Florida. Bagworms are larvae and are rarely seen outside their bag.

    • Larvae make the bag by secreting silk to build an arch and using small particles of sand, soil, iron rust, insect droppings, hairs and other fibers.
    • A fully developed larva (caterpillar) has a case up to 2 inches in length.
    • They can be mistaken for pine cones or other plant structures.
    • As the Bagworm grows they enlarge their bag.
    • Full grown bagworms are a dull gray with darker markings towards the head.
    Bagworms Signs & Symptoms:

    When a Bagworm is found on plants it will consume the entire leaf except for the mid-rib. Normally, Bagworms feed on one branch at a time and one can often spot damage by the presence of bags hanging from branches and twigs.

    • If there is a heavy infestation of Bagworms they will strip trees and shrubs of their leaves and it will cause death for the plant.
    • Bagworm outbreaks are often reduced by the cooler temperatures in the Winter.
    • Bagworms prefer juniper, arborvitae, spruce, pine and cedar trees and will occasionally feed on deciduous trees as well.
    • Older Bagworms will strip evergreen trees of their needles and devour the entire leaves of deciduous plants.
    • Heavy infestations over every year can lead to plant or tree death.
    • Most of the time Bagworm infestations go unnoticed until they are mature and the damage is extensive.
    Bagworms Habitat:

    Bagworms tend to feed on a wide variety of trees and shrubs such as arborvitae, conifers, box elder, cedar, cypress, elm, fruit and nut trees, live oak, locust, maple, persimmon, pines, sycamore, wild cherry and willow. (photo to the left courtesy of: Kpaulus on Flickr, Photographer: Kristine Paulus)

    Most infested plants have more Bagworms the following year because the adult female cannot fly and will stay on its current host. During feeding, the bagworm will emerge from the top of the bag and hang onto the host with their legs and sometimes with a silken thread. During its molting stages, it will seal up its bag. The bagworm can be transferred to a new host by wind.

    Bagworms Life Cycle:

    Although bagworm species vary slightly in habits and life cycle, on evergreens the bagworm spends winter months in the egg stage within the sealed bag produced by females the previous fall. In the spring (late May, early June), tiny 1/25 inch long caterpillars hatch and lower themselves on silken strands to new foliage and construct a tiny narrow-pointed bag which they carry upright as they move. As the caterpillar grows through four or more molts (instars) it enlarges its bag. Full grown caterpillars within bags are up to 1 inch long before pupating. Seven to 10 days later, the pupae of male moths wiggle out of the bottom of the bag before the male emerges, leaving the empty pupal skin behind. Adult males have short 1/2inch-long clear wings, hairy black bodies and feathery antennae emerge. They fly and seek out a female to mate. Females do not develop into moths, but remain inside bags and resemble maggots, with no functional eyes, legs, mouthparts or antennae. After mating, females produce a large clutch (500 to 1,000) of eggs inside their bodies and die. Other bagworm species spend winter months as a partially-developed caterpillars that complete feeding and pupate in the spring. Adults emerge in the spring, although some emerge through October. Females produce a clutch of eggs in their bags before dropping to the ground to die. Feeding larvae of all stages occur during the spring and summer. Source: Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

    If you are experiencing Bagworm problems give us a call today at(386) 362-3887 to let a Pest Specialist treat and eliminate them from your lawn.

    Also listen to recorded radio interviews with Roy Crain Jr. discussing this month's pest.

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