Fall webworms place their webs on the end of branches of hardwood trees in late summer and fall.
They aren’t spider webs that many say could indicate the type of winter we’re likely to have. No, indeed, all those webbed nests everyone’s been seeing in trees for the past few weeks belong to fall webworms.
According to County Extension Agent Rachel Wigington, fall webworms are caterpillars that turn into moths. And while she said they aren’t indicative of future weather, they are proof that we had a mild winter last year.
“The reason we are seeing so many right now is because we had such a mild winter and their population wasn’t (lost) with severe cold,” she said.
Fall webworms place their webs out on the end of branches of hardwood trees in late summer and fall, Wigington said. Another species, the eastern tent caterpillars, place their webs at the base of trees, usually in springtime, she said.
“The fall webworms turn into moths and they are building a home. That’s why you see those webs. It’s for protection, so birds won’t dive into them.”
The webworm caterpillar is about an inch long with a black to reddish head and light yellow to greenish body with a mottled stripe of two rows of black tubercles and tufts of long whitish hairs. Adults appear as white moths with dark spots on the wings. Wigington said they aren’t harmful to mature trees.
“They are feeding off of the leaves so when you see the leaves dying it’s them eating them,” she said. “It’s not going to kill a mature plant. The only thing you have to watch out for are newly planted trees.”
To control fall webworms, she said, if you can reach them all you need to do is take a rake and knock (the web) down. “If you can collect it and take it to a trash can where you can burn it.”
Wigington said a strong water hose may also work.
“We never recommend spraying with chemicals overhead. Water hoses can work. You can just wash them out of the tree.”