Leave Those Catalpa Worms Be


catalpa flowersMore than once in my life, I’ve interfered with a plant, critter or bug I was unfamiliar with instead of first doing my research.

Many years ago, after growing up in Wisconsin, I was unacquainted with a twisty sort of tree flourishing beneath the power pole at my new home in Virginia. The house had been vacant for some years before I arrived, so I reasoned the untamed vegetation spread on its own.

A full 8 months pregnant, I marched right out there with my pruning saw, hacking each 15-foot tree off at ground level. I figured it was better to sacrifice the young trees before they grew into the electric wires and before I fell in love with them.

Pleased with my day-long effort to cut, drag and stack the brush, I was atop the huge pile, stomping it into a manageable mass to burn, when a neighbor – a fourth-generation Virginia tobacco farmer – happened to stop in. I assumed his perplexed look centered on my precarious position and safety.

Oh, it’s OK, I said. My doctor says me and the baby are perfectly healthy. This is not stressful, I added, hoping he would not consider me frail or reckless.

“No, I was wondering,” he asked, “How come you cut down all your dogwood trees?”

5/28/2019 6:04:29 PM

I live in Western Ky, and on my Grandparents homestead. There are Catalpa trees all over around here. One in particular is in our front yard. The worms are ESSENTIAL for the trees as they help one another. 1. Worms---it provides food 2. The tree-- it's fertilized and "pruned" of most of its leaves for health & longevity (in my opinion as this tree has thrived for over 40 years! And has sported worms every year except for 3 and it wasn't consecutive). If you have a Catalpa, you're blessed! The worms are great bait for catfish & the blooms smell amazing!!

1/22/2019 12:23:28 PM

My in-laws had a seedling that grew from blowing in the yard from their neighbor. It grew rather large. When they moved we brought the tree to our yard. It has grown quickly and there are more each year growing wherever they find a spot to grow! They are beautiful, flowering, scented, large trees. I love them and have scattered the seeds myself to see how they will grow on our property. I found new growth in my rose beds last year. Left them to grow a bit. I will transplant to a new location in spring. I will continue to spread out the seeds from the pods as well!

8/24/2018 5:36:55 PM

I registered just to comment on this article. I have a 50' Catalpa tree in my back yard. About every two years it becomes infested with the worms and completely defoliated. Please read http://www.ag.auburn.edu/enpl/bulletins/catalpasphinx/catalpasphinx.htm. The worms may be great as bait, but I don't fish and neither do the wild bird in the tree. When the feeding begins, the yard has to abondoned as the mess is terrible. Within two weeks or less there isn't leave left on the tree. About the time new leaves are just getting mature, it begins again with the next cycle, maybe 4 times in one summer. Given a few years of this, there won't be a tree surviving in the yard. I spray with a sump pump feeding a power washer that can reach well over the top of the tree. One good spraying in June leaves the tree healthy all summer and birds can shelter in the big leaves. The flowers are plentiful in the spring unless I haven't sprayed in which case there are none. I thought symbiotic relationships benefited both sides, but I see nothing good for the tree from the worms--left alone they will kill the catalpa tree. A good shot of BT solves the problem all summer.

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