Webworms Eating Into Fall Color

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BRANSON, Mo. – The trees are slowly beginning to change color but right now they may be catching your eye for another reason.
 
Webworms are showing up across the Ozarks, prompting several calls to Missouri’s Department of Conservation. 
 
While the webs aren’t much to look at, and the caterpillars can leave some trees in a skeleton–like state, the MDC says the insects aren’t something home and landowners should be worried about.
 
Most of the trees are at the end of the annual growth cycle and will be dropping their leaves in the next few weeks. As a result, most trees, especially mature ones, can withstand the worms eating away at vegetation. 
 
“You can use last year as an example,” says MDC media specialist, Francis Skalicky. “You’ll remember things were really widespread with fall webworms and all those trees came back. “
 
“The main thing we’re going to have is that there’s not going to be as much fall color,” he says. 
 
The webs act as a protective barrier for the caterpillars as they go through the molting stages of their life-cycle. 
 
Skalicky says the best option for individuals wanting control the webs is simple: use a long stick or broom to break up the webs.  However, he does not advise using fire or a type of chemical compound to kill the bugs. 
 
“Because you can’t get a chemical pesticide that focuses just on those caterpillars, it may be killing some good beneficial inspects too,” he says. 
 
“So the best thing to do is, the web globes that you can reach, you can get them down with a stick, break them apart, let the birds get at those caterpillars,” Skalicky says. “The rest of the web globes that you can’t reach, just leave them be.” 
 
Skalicky says webworms primarily target walnut, hickory and persimmon trees but feed on up to 90-different species of tree.

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