PITY THE UGLY
All the authorities say these critters can defoliate plants but rarely kill them, so why should humans
care one way or the other? Well, they’re accused of being unsightly –
an accusation that I find wholly accurate. But is unsightliness a
crime punishable by extermination? And one academic site even accused
them of causing "a high level of aggravation for
people trying to control the wriggling masses of larvae." Sure,
they’re creepy but "high level of aggravation"? Get over it.
So how do humans combat the source of their aggravation?
- Smart gardeners notice the tents in early spring and go after
them – by pruning them out or poking through them with a stick. A good
dousing from the business end of a high-pressure hose may also do the
- Burning the tents is a common practice that’s advised against
by the authorities. As one listserv member put it: "I simply can’t
imagine climbing around in a tree and wielding a torch very
effectively, plus you might well have a nasty accident." Right.
- Some Extension Service sites suggest killing young caterpillars with an insecticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis var kurstaki
or insecticides like carbaryl, methoxychlor, and malathion.
They don’t exactly say how, except that spraying the tents is pointless
because the caterpillars are well protected in them. But really,
shouldn’t these educational institutions be presenting the big picture
about pesticide use? You know, all those nasty side effects on us and
- "Caterpillars knocked from the tree or crawling on a patio may
by crushing. Use a broom to collect dead or crawling caterpillars
around the home," advises one site. So, a little housekeeping advice
with the entomology lesson.
- Then there’s what a neighbor of mine recently did: notice a tree without a single
leaf remaining and wander around asking everyone how to kill the defoliators. Too late, buddy.
My own favorite technique (which I may
even use someday) is the observant gardener taking action in early
spring to poke holes in the tents to expose them to predators. See the
My second favorite isn’t mentioned in the literature because – well,
I don’t know. It’s the old pick ’em off by hand and drop them into
soapy water trick. I instituted this extermination plan after
discovering these roses completely defoliated, with the destruction
moving quickly to neighboring roses. A jar of soapy water is always on
hand and the morning hunt is kinda fun. (A form of hunting that even
lefty animal-huggers can enjoy!)
This mano-a-mano, organic approach to insect control takes me back
to the gardens of my childhood, where roses were routinely ravaged by
Japanese beetles. But beetle traps were hanging nearby and we just
LOVED picking the beetles off by hand and dropping them in the traps.
Or squashing them, of course – a highlight in any kid’s day.
Just for fun, I Googled "Japanese beetle trap" and found this
– one old-fashioned trap on the shelf with an arsenal of chemical
warfare. And the site? It’s called "Yardlover" but we know its target
audience as yardeners.