Caterpillar invasion

LNMP(z5 NY)June 2, 2005

Help! Our entire property (maybe this entire section of town) has been inundated with caterpillars. At first it seemed to be just the little green inchworm type, but now it appears to be several types of caterpillars. They are turning the branches of our mature oak trees to skeletons, eating crabapple and viburnum leaves, and have made our driveway and yard into an obstacle course of hanging webs. You can't enter the house without bringing several caterpillars in on one's clothing.

When I go out to the garden in my back yard, it sounds like it's raining. What's coming down looks like poppy seeds, but I assume it's either caterpillar droppings or the leftovers from their mad feast on the oak tree.

Anyone else having this experience? When will it end? What causes this terrible infestation? Right now I don't even want to be outside!

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Didn't you have this problem last year? I recall a similar 'distress' call.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 10:50PM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Where exactly are you in NY? Do you see anything about it in local newspapers? Try Cornell co operative extension, they're usually really good about this bug stuff.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 7:39AM
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Anne-Marie, last year the problem was with what turned out to be a European Pine Sawfly infestation. It mainly affected our pine trees, although some of the larvae would fall off the trees onto other plants and shrubs. Unfortunately, the Sawfly larvae are back, too, but at least I know what they are and how to deal with them.

The caterpillars this year are unusually bad. I did find out that some of my neighbors have them too. Unlike them, I won't use pesticides. I have been spraying with Bt (a bacterium that the caterpillars ingest), but it's a little like trying to put out a house fire with a plant spritzer...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 8:41AM
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fairydancer(z5 NY)

Here in Niskayuna, we had the caterpillars last year and this year as well.....same thing......tons of little green ones at first, and then black ones. It does sound like it is raining in our back yard too.....quite nasty. My neighbor said that he thought they came in cycles of about every 7 years and we hoped we wouldn't get them this year, but they are back and in even greater numbers it seems. They don't seem to attack too many of the flowers, but are eating the trees up something fierce. We've had them now for a couple of weeks and we seem to remember that they stay for about a month and then seem to disappear.

Another neighbor of mine said that after they are gone we get the second invasion......the japanese beetle which WILL eat all the flowers. We've got grubs, and haven't been able to get rid of them, so I'm not looking forward to that either. I did pick up some japanese beetle traps last year, so hopefully I can save some of my garden.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 6:05AM
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Fairydancer: I'd be wary of using the jap. beatle traps. I put them out in my yard 2 years ago and they seemed to ATTRACT the darn things. I had hundreds A DAY that I had to keep emptying...gross.

Then last year, I didn't use mine, but my next-door neighbor(about an acre away from me) did, and I had very few jap. beatles -- so low an amount that I could easily pick them off by hand and drown them in soapy water until they were all gone. I think practically EVERY jap. beatle in the neighborhood ended up in my neighbor's traps!!!!

Just something to think about! Don't know if others have had that same experiences???

Wilton, NY

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 10:26AM
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WEll.. those caterpillars sound really serious, LNMP. You seem to have your share. I think you & Deb should get in touch with your local Cooperative Extension if you haven't done so yet...

I'm nervous now to go out and check the trees/shrubs around here!!! I have enough work trying to fight aphids on my purple-leaf sand cherry tree and hibiscus. My neighbor's hedge (spirea) is just covered with these aphids, too,(different type) but I can't really do anything about it. Such a bad year for aphids and so few ladybugs! Our very dry spring is probably making everything worse. No downpour to knock them off. So I have to do it. I can't win this battle alone.

Deb.. don't even mention the JB word... and, adkmountaingirl is right about the traps.

Keep us posted LNMP!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 4:57PM
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I agree, Anne-Marie, the dry weather is not helping the situation! I did go out this afternoon and hose down the garden, trying to knock some of the darn caterpillars off the leaves (plus my plants looked very thirsty in the 90 degree heat we had today). I know people love sunny, warm weather, but I am really hoping for a good downpour this week... uh, just not during our plant exchange!!!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 7:54PM
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fairydancer(z5 NY)

Thanks for fyi about the traps......I think I'll wait and see before I set them out. I'm pretty bad about bugs....I try to ignore them as much as possible and don't go looking around for them on my plants. Unless they start eating EVERYTHING, I don't do anything about them.....if one or two get devoured I chalk them up to being the sacrifical lambs for the cause. I'm just not good at getting over the "ick" factor.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 6:23AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

I had tent cats in two of my fruit trees last year. They set up house and nearly stripped the trees in a matter of two days without me noticing. I water sprayed them out and luckily new leaf growth eventually appeared. Now I am ever vigilant.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 8:55AM
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