Fall webworm started showing up around the middle of July.
This is a native insect that feeds on deciduous trees and shrubs, and it is makes an appearance every year in yards and forests. Fall webworm forms loose webbing over branch tips and if it is a small tree, the entire tree can be completely webbed.
Inside the webbing you’ll find caterpillars (alive and dead), partially eaten leaves and frass (caterpillar poop).
Fall webworm is more of a cosmetic problem than a tree health problem, but if you want to control them, the easiest way to do that is to open up the webbing. You can take a rake, fishing pole, long stick, or whatever and open up the webbing. This will allow predators to get at the caterpillars inside the webbing. Or you can use the rake, fishing pole, etc. and roll the webbing up. Then peel the rolled webbing off and place the entire web in a container of soapy water for a couple of days. If you want to use an insecticide, you need to make sure the insecticide is labelled for caterpillars/fall webworm and the spray needs to penetrate inside the webbing. With all pesticides, the user needs to read and follow label directions. There is no need to prune off the branch. If the tree is healthy, the defoliation should not harm the tree. You can find more information on fall webworm here.
Written by: Todd Lanigan, forest health specialist, Eau Claire (Todd.Lanigan@wisconsin.gov)