Manual Destruction of Bagworm Nests Really Works

It finally occurred to me a while back that we didn’t spend any time taking care of bag worm nests this year. Evidently, the manual destruction of bag worm nests really does work to remove them.

I’ve posted here before on bagging the bag worms. Essentially, the bags or tents are manually destroyed by physical means using a stick or plastic bag-wrapped hand so the caterpillars don’t have a home to go back to after ravaging the forest. Yes, by destroying the nests and the worms that get in the way, we are killing living things. Just remember that we’re not using pesticides to do so!

Not only are the nests unsightly, but the caterpillars are very destructive. They eat all the leaves from a chosen tree, especially cherries and other members of the Prunus genus. If the tree is in otherwise good health, it may be able to sprout a second set of leaves to carry on living for the rest of the season. If the same tree is hit two years in a row with the hungry mouths of bag worms, the tree may become too weak and not survive.

It’s typical that the woods that surround our house are a haven for the tent caterpillars or bagworms. We used to see the ugly tents in many trees, but this year there were none. There seem to be plenty of nests that appear high in trees, especially near the rivers, so that makes a sort of reservoir of worms for future infestations.

Does anyone else see good results by manual nest removal? I’m curious to see what may appear next year. If we do see more bag worm nests then, you can bet that they’ll also be destroyed.

Caterpillars Eat Blueberry Leaves: Hairy, Yellow-Orange Stripes on Black

Checking the fruit trees out back one day at the beginning of August, I saw two groups of yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars. There were a dozen or more caterpillars all huddled at the ends of two empty branches of a blueberry bush. They must have eaten the blueberry leaves with abandon as all the leaves were gone on the stems that the squishy critters were found. None of the other four blueberry plants had any of these caterpillars.

Funny thing is I found them by spotting their poop. Those little grenades tend to collect under caterpillar feeding areas and give away the hungry camoflaged mouths.

Caterpillar scat collecting on bark used as mulch for blueberry bushes. Photos taken 3 August 2010.
Caterpillar scat collecting on bark used as mulch for blueberry bushes. Photos taken 3 August 2010.

Once you see the scat you can more easily spot the critters who deposited it. Caterpillars that have found the right food source will stay put and continue to feed, so their scat is usually directly below where they’ve been feeding. It’s a little surprising that I didn’t see the critters first, because they were all huddled together at the end of the branches.

Group of hairy yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars at the end of a blueberry branch.
Group of hairy yellow-orange and black-striped caterpillars at the end of a blueberry branch.

Large grouping of caterpillars huddled on one stem near other stems that they striped of leaves.

Large grouping of caterpillars huddled on one stem near other stems that they stripped of leaves.
Prolegs and pedipalps, long hairs and yellow stripes. Anyone know who I am?
Prolegs and pedipalps, long hairs and yellow stripes. Anyone know who I am?

The blueberry shrubs and other fruit trees were checked often in the following weeks, but we haven’t seen this type of caterpillar again. I wonder what type of butterfly they would have morphed into. It’s really too bad they chose to eat from that blueberry bush!

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