1 Oct 2016 – Sometimes Strange things lead to wonderful things – Walnut Caterpillars, Dr. Strange drawing and my backyard sanctuary

Good evening to you, it’s about 7:05 pm this Saturday evening as I start to write to you.  Today has been a very strange day but in more good ways than not.  Let me explain.

It started with my wanting to attempt a portrait of Benedict Cumberbatch in his Dr. Strange costume and as I was going outside to do this, I saw them…..caterpillars all over the place!  I immediately had a flashback to being a teenager at home alone and going outside and finding Army worms invading our yard and even crawling all over the house!  ZOMG!!!  Well I didn’t want to call an exterminator because that means poison and we’ve already had enough poison assaults from the city and everywhere else it can come from.  We’ve lost our wasps, bees, heck there are hardly any flies either and the birds aren’t around to eat the damn things either!  So I tried Dawn soap mixed with vinegar, straight up vinegar, coffee grounds, sea salt….NOPE!  The only successful trap was pouring vinegar in tin pie pans in front of the back door and with this they just crawled in and got stuck but were still alive!  For some damn reason they want to keep coming to our back door and the sides of the house like those damn Army worms did!  UGH!

It’s not looking good for our backyard trees…..all of them are sick and only the child of our front yard oak, Yolie, is showing any sign of recovery!  It’s so sad.  We are going to let things go til spring and see what happens.  We probably have too many trees in the back anyways with how sparse the rains can be and how poor the soil condition is.

Well I did get frustrated and anxious with all of this, but to calm myself down I started rearranging the back porch and at the end of it I had put together my backyard sanctuary/church I’ve been wanting to find and or create and did a pretty decent drawing of Ben!  The combination of the physical exertion and then the mental stimulation of drawing helped me calm down about the stupid caterpillars and cope with my feelings about the health of our trees.

At least Spot and Amber are feeling better today!  Spot has been able to move around without wincing as much and Amber’s ear infection is almost completely cleared up now.  We have to count our blessings don’t we?!


The Walnut Caterpillar

John A. Jackman Extension survey entomologist The Texas A&M University System

The walnut caterpillar is a serious threat to pecan, hickory and walnut trees. It also endangers oak, willow, honey locust and certain woody shrubs. The caterpillars develop in large clusters and rapidly defoliate ornamental and orchard trees if not controlled. Spraying with insecticides is the best control measure. To avoid as much damage as possible, spray the caterpillars when they are still young.

Biology and Description

The adult insect is a moth with a two-inch wing span. It is brown and tan with a dark region on the body behind the head and has wavy, dark lines across the front wings. The adults emerge from pupae which overwinter in the soil at the base of a host tree. The female moth later deposits about 300 eggs on the underside of one of the leaves. Adult moth

Caterpillars, or larvae, hatch from the eggs in about 9 days and live together in a group. They are reddish brown to black with white markings and long white hairs. Large larvae are conspicuously fuzzy and may grow up to 50mm (2 inches) long.

Young larvae feed only on soft tissue, leaving a skeletonized leaf behind, while older larvae feed on the entire leaf, including the petiole. The last few stages, or instars, do the majority of the feeding damage. Larvae characteristically arch their heads and tails in a defensive posture when disturbed. Since they feed together, damage may be localized to just a branch to two. Isolated trees are more subject to attack than forest or orchard trees.

Young larvaThe caterpillars often move in a group to the tree trunk to molt from one stage to the next, leaving a patch of fur-like hair and cast skins. When they finish feeding, they drop to the ground and pupate in the soil. They do not spin a cocoon but form a naked pupal case.

In Texas, at least two generations of the insect develop each year. The second generation is usually larger in number and causes more damage. In some past years, almost all of the native pecan trees in certain areas of the state were defoliated by walnut caterpillars.


Wasp and fly parasites sometimes attack walnut caterpillars but cannot be depended upon, especially in urban areas, for complete control.

The egg masses found on the leaves of small trees can be removed by hand. Groups of caterpillars found on tree trunks or branches during molting can also be destroyed.

For larger trees and plantings, the application of insecticide sprays is the most practical method of control. However, it is more effective if the eggs and immature larvae are detected early and sprayed before extensive damage occurs.

Use products containing carbaryl (Sevin), malathion, diazinon, acephate (Orthene), methoxychlor, trichlorfon (Dylox, Proxol) or Bacillus thuringiensis. Thoroughly spray leaves, twigs, limbs and tree trunks. Large infested trees may require treatment by commercial applicators with high-pressure sprayers.

Insecticide label clearances are subject to change and changes may have occurred since this publication was printed. The pesticide USER is responsible for the effects of pesticides on his own plants or household goods as well as problems caused by drift from his property to other properties or plants. Always read and follow carefully the instructions on the container label.


2 comments on “1 Oct 2016 – Sometimes Strange things lead to wonderful things – Walnut Caterpillars, Dr. Strange drawing and my backyard sanctuary

  1. Yikes! I’d be pretty unnerved by an army of caterpillars making their way to my back door, Jackie. I would have thought the vinegar/Dawn formula would have stopped them. Nice to hear you have your outdoor sanctuary, though! 😉 xoM

    • I know right?! They seem to actually like the vinegar which is weird lol! There are still a few today but not as many.

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