Journalists both love and hate stories that come around every year, like back-to-school advances and Black Friday stories. We hate them because they’re repetitive, but we love them because they’re no-brainers.
Almost as soon as I came to New Hampshire I created my own annual story – about webworms, which build ugly gauzy nests in the branches of trees in late summer but aren’t actually a big deal because deciduous trees are already ramping down the winter (unlike tent caterpillars, which make their silky nests in spring when trees need all the photosynthesis they can get).
The story was was fun, it was easy, it was informative, so I cranked it out pretty much every year starting in 1987 (as shown here). At least one editor made great fun of me for doing it consistently but I’m not proud and kept it for many years.
I haven’t webwormed in a while, but had a nostalgic flashback today when the UNH Cooperative Extension beat me to it:
Are you seeing fall webworms right now? The silken nests enclosing branches they create in trees are the tell tale sign.
The good news is that they don’t cause any significant damage to trees or shrubs. They’re also a food source for birds, insects, spiders, and beneficial parasitic wasps.
But nonetheless, many home owners want to get rid of them. If you do, the nests can be destroyed by pruning out the infested branches or hand removing them with a stick. We don’t recommend chemical controls, but biological insecticides containing Bt can be effective when the larva are small.