Fall Webworms (Hyphantria cunea) were a new sight for me on a recent trip. I was continually creeped-out by their frequent outcroppings in the tree canopy as Michelle and I drove down back roads of Pennsylvania. The webbed masses clung to helpless trees. The nests hung in the air like little alien cocoons about to release ungodly multi-legged, man eating creatures. Michelle tried to put my fears to rest by announcing that despite their disturbing appearance and ability to defoliate entire trees, they are relatively harmless and go unnoticed most of the year.
I’m unconvinced. They are native to North America but apparently began to migrate across the globe in the 1940’s. First conquering the former Yugoslavia and now occupy several regions of Europe. The Fall webworm is also prevalent throughout Japan, Korea, and China. They are in fact, strategically taking over the world, one hardwood tree at a time.
Fall webworms are not picky about the trees they select to serve as host. They feast on pecan, walnut, American elm, hickory, and maples in the east. Favorites in the West include alder, willow, and cottonwood trees. Regardless of region, fruit trees are always a favorite for these silky sore eyes to devour.