Sunday, September 25, 2016

Back From The Dead

This year seemed to be a very “good” year for tent caterpillars. I had more people remark on seeing them than ever before. The caterpillars (or rather the parent moths) seemed especially fond of sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) and persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) trees this year. As is my way, I left the trees alone to let nature run its course.

Tent caterpillars on sourwood

The small persimmon next to the street light was 100% engulfed and surely looked fit for a Halloween decoration by the time the caterpillars were done with it. Nearby, several medium sourwoods looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, with large pompom-like nests on the branches. I know that the neat-nik neighbors down the street must have been horrified every time they drove past.

Datana caterpillars finish off the leaves

One sourwood in the back was doubly cursed. The leaves not eaten by the tent caterpillars were consumed by a different species until nothing but the thin leaf veins were hanging in wispy groups. I was truly concerned for this tree. Could it possibly survive such devastation? 

While the caterpillars themselves don’t kill the tree, without the leaves to gather sunlight and make nourishment for the roots, the tree might actually perish.

New leaves beside remnants of the eaten ones

I am happy to report that all the affected trees, including the one in the back, have started to put out new leaves. We might even get some decent fall color on these trees (sourwoods have awesome fall color when they have leaves).

So if you ever wondered what happens to trees with tent caterpillars … now you know they can make it just fine!

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