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Extension Entomology

Tag: bagworm

Bagworms are Here!

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Bagworms are Here!

Now is the time to start taking action against that “infamous” insect pest known as the bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis). Throughout Kansas, bagworm eggs have hatched and the young caterpillars are feeding on both broadleaf and evergreen trees and shrubs. Bagworms are primarily a pest of conifers but have expanded their host range to include a number of broadleaf plants, including: rose, honeylocust, and flowering plum. Hand-picking small caterpillars (along with their accompanying bag) and placing them into a container of soapy water will kill them directly. This practice, if feasible, will quickly remove populations before they can cause substantial plant damage.

For those not interested in hand-picking, a number of insecticides are labeled for use against bagworms including those with the following active ingredients (trade name in parentheses): acephate (Orthene), Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki (Dipel/Thuricide), cyfluthrin (Tempo), lambda-cyhalothrin (Scimitar), trichlorfon (Dylox), indoxacarb (Provaunt), chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn), and spinosad (Conserve). Many of these active ingredients are commercially available and sold under different trade names or as generic products. However, several insecticides may not be directly available to homeowners. The key to managing bagworms with insecticides is to apply early and frequently enough in order to kill the highly susceptible young caterpillars that are feeding aggressively on plant foliage (Figure 1). Older caterpillars that develop

 

Figure 1. Young Bagworm Feeding On Conifer (Author-Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University)

 

later in the season (Figure 2) are typically more difficult to kill with insecticides. Furthermore, females feed less as they prepare for reproduction, which reduces their susceptibility to spray applications and any residues. The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki is active on young caterpillars; however, the active ingredient must be consumed to be effective, so thorough coverage of all plant parts and frequent applications are required. This compound is sensitive to ultra-violet light degradation and rainfall, which reduces residual activity. Spinosad is the active ingredient in a number of homeowner products, including: Borer, Bagworm, Tent Caterpillar and Leafminer Spray; Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew; and Monterey Garden Insect Spray. These products work by contact and ingestion (stomach poison) although they are most

 

Figure 2. Older Bagworms (Author-Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University)

 

 

effective when ingested and can be used against older or larger bagworm caterpillars (Figure 3). Cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, trichlorfon, chlorantraniliprole, and indoxacarb may be used against both the young and the older caterpillars. However, thorough coverage of all plant parts, especially the tops of trees and shrubs, where bagworms commonly initiate feeding, and frequent applications are required. The reason multiple applications are needed when bagworms are first detected is because young bagworms “blow in” (called ‘ballooning’) from neighboring plants on silken threads. If left unchecked, bagworms can cause significant damage, and ruin the aesthetic quality of plants. In addition, bagworms may actually kill plants, especially newly transplanted small evergreens, since evergreens do not usually produce another flush of growth.

 

Figure 3. Captain Jack’s DeadBug Brew (Author-Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University)

If you have any questions regarding the management bagworms contact your county horticultural agent, or university-based or state extension entomologist.

 

 

Feeding Capabilities/Capacities of Caterpillars – Useful Information for Bagworm Control

–by Dr. Bob Bauernfeind

The following basic developmental sequence is applicable to caterpillars regardless their species.

Beginning at egg hatch as a 1st instar larva, a caterpillar progresses through a series of developmental instars until such time it has matured, after which it ceases feeding when ready to transform into its pupal stage. In this sequence as determined under controlled conditions, the variegated cutworm consumed 442.2 mg of artificial diet. Only a small portion (27%) of the diet was consumed through the first 6 instars. In real situations where larvae feed on plant foliage, “nibblings” go unnoticed and are inconsequential. People usually first become aware of the presence of foraging caterpillars as foliage rapidly disappears when caterpillars ravenously feed midway-towards-the-end of their final “chow hound” instar. The last instar consumed 73% of the total diet.

4-VCUT DEV - jpg

How can this information be applied to bagworm control? In the following sequence, in Weeks 1 – 5, under the green “safe” line, bags and bagworms are small. At 6 and 7 weeks, they become larger but remain under the yellow “still safe” line. Beginning at weeks 8 and 9, we have the orangish “amber alert” line. To this point, ALL ARE NIBBLERS! In weeks 10 and 11, we are under the red “danger” line as the bagworms now are into their “CHOWHOUND MODE”!

5-bagworm sequance.jpg

When bagworms hatch in any given year, the hatching period occurs over a 4 to 5 week period typically beginning in mid-to late May. While it is informative to know when bagworm activities begin, that should not signal the beginning of automatic weekly spray treatments. Rather, a single thorough treatment (with a contact insecticide) applied at the end of June into the first 10-14 days of July should suffice. I enlarged and bolded thorough to emphasize the importance of not merely hastily-applying a light spritzy/misty spray treatment. While such might eliminate bagworms on the periphery of a tree/shrub, bagworm populations located in the more dense inner regions will be least affected. And as insecticide residues dissipate/degrade on the outer foliage, the unaffected bagworms will eventually move out and feed unfettered.

Comes the question regarding product/insecticide-of-choice. Currently in Kansas, there are 400+ products registered for use on bagworms. I personally do not recommend any one product over another. Use any contact insecticide (locally available through retail outlets) with bagworms listed on the product label. Based upon my experiences/trials (the first dating back to 1989), I achieved near-equally effective kill against late-instar bagworms using discontinued active ingredients (chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dimethoate, parathion) as well as currently available acephate, bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, malathion, permethrin, spinosad and trichlorfon. Reemphasizing: what is critical/key is not the active ingredient but rather (again) THOROUGH COVERAGE of the ENTIRE tree/shrub!

 

 

 

 

 

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