Bagworm caterpillars defoliate over 50 families of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, primarily arborvitae, juniper, pine, and spruce. Stripping of leaves and needles is most noticeable in uppermost parts of plants. If left untreated, these pests are capable of extensive defoliation which can cause branch dieback or death.
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Bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis), known as common bagworm, evergreen bagworm, eastern bagworm, North American bagworm, or common basket worm, is a native moth pest in the U.S. Bagworms overwinter as eggs inside the female’s abdomen inside the bag she constructed. Eggs hatch and caterpillars crawl out of the bag, forming a shelter over their bodies with silk and plant material from the trees on which they feed.
We forecast caterpillar emergence based on growing degree days. Bagworm outbreaks can be reduced by low winter temperatures and a complex of several parasites. Bagworms may be manually controlled by picking and destroying the bags. On evergreen trees, the cases are easiest to detect in fall after the cases have turned brown. When bagworms are too numerous to handpick, an insecticide application may be effective. Ideally, treatments are undertaken after caterpillars emerge and when caterpillars are small, as treatments are not as effective against larger caterpillars. For specific information on preferred treatment options in your region, we recommend contacting your local extension agent. Additional treatment resources are available through Penn State Department of Entomology and Ohio State University Extension.
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