Fall webworms are white, fuzzy caterpillars that are spiking in population in Louisiana
Fall webworms are white, fuzzy caterpillars that are spiking in population in Louisiana

Louisiana seeing increasing population of fuzzy, white caterpillars

Fall webworms are white, fuzzy caterpillars spiking in population in Louisiana

South Louisianans may be seeing some fuzzy, white caterpillars in their yards or gardens recently. They are called fall webworms and Louisiana is experiencing a spike in their population, making them more noticeable this year.

Louisianans will meet five generations of these guys this year.

Fall webworms are white, fuzzy caterpillars that are spiking in population in Louisiana
Fall webworms are white, fuzzy caterpillars that are spiking in population in Louisiana

They first made their appearance in mid-March, and so far, the second generation is out as well as the beginning of the third. They are estimated to stay around through the end of the summer.

“They are not poisonous or venomous. They do not sting, and as far as we know, their pest status primarily comes from the fact that they can feed on a lot of different plants, primarily trees and shrubs,” said Aaron Ashbrook, assistant professor at the LSU Department of Entomology.

The only threat they pose to humans or animals is the amount of your garden they munch on.

“Fall webworms are polyphagous, which means they are able to feed on many different plants,” said Ashbrook. “They actually will feed upon over 400 species of plants. And so they don’t necessarily have a preference. It’s just what is a good host for them.”

In urban areas, they rely on trees for shade and temperature regulation. An excess of fall webworms can result in less shade when they feed on trees, which in some cases causes hotter temperatures.

“Fall webworms can be very problematic in production settings where fruits and nuts are being grown. They can defoliate the trees, and that will impact the ability for those trees to produce fruit and nuts,” said Ashbrook.

There are actually two types, or morphs, of the fall webworms. The black-headed morph, the ones being seeing right now, are white with a black head, and in their adult form, they are fully white moths. The second type of webworm is the red-headed morph. They have a red and orange color, and in their adult form, they are white and spotted.

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