Leave Those Catalpa Worms Be

| 6/17/2013 12:36:00 PM

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?”

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.

8/19/2018 9:01:41 AM

My husband & I live in north Alabama. We bought our one acre lot & home about a year ago. What made us fall in love with this property was the yard. Right in the middle of the back yard is a huge catalpa tree. The trunk is about 4 ft around with big limbs that branch out in both directions across the yard. Our back porch faces east. In the morning as the sun rises the sunlight coming thru the big catalpa leaves is just beautiful. Last year we didn’t notice any worms but this year they are here. So glad I found this article & now know that they won’t hurt this beautiful tree.

8/16/2018 10:57:36 PM

We have a fair amount of what I believe are northern catalpa trees in SW Idaho. I've never seen any worms on them, though. In fact, nothing really even goes in the trees (unless you put a bird feeder in them). The trees don't seem to be in any danger of extinction here, but I've never seen the worms.

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