Tag Archives: fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

For LD and nathalie with an h

nathalie with an h suffers from an allergy to wasp stings that rivals my own anaphylactic reaction.  You can therefore understand why she has been rather disapproving of my affinity for wasps and the resulting mania with which I’ve posted their photos recently[1].  She certainly has every right to be weary of them (and the spider I need to go rescue from her home before she does something untoward), so I gleefully enjoyed her ribbing me at Starbucks each morning about her not wanting to see more wasp photos.

LD dislikes insects in general.  Her own words do better justice to this phobia than any I could write.  In an e-mail to me about a horde of critters around their front porch[2], she said this: “I’m kind of a nut about bugs[3] and ones that fly REALLY freak me out.”  While some might think her a bit hysterical, she shares this manic fear with a majority of people.  Her feelings on the subject actually are quite normal in the scheme of human responses to insects.

Upon consideration of these two people and their collective view of insects, I felt behooved to share more of my fanaticism in this regard, only this time I want to post creatures I’m sure both of them would enjoy.  So, ladies, this is for you!

A painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) (20080412_03322)

Painted lady (Vanessa cardui)

A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (20080314_02566)

Fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

A red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) (20080420_04206)

Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

A common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) (20080420_04300)

Common buckeye (Junonia coenia)

A white checkered-skipper butterfly (Pyrgus albescens) (20080601_05981)

White checkered-skipper (Pyrgus albescens)

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) (20080601_06173)

Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

A silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) (20080701_08707)

Silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

I hope both of you found a wee bit of respite in knowing this marvelous group of creatures offers you some of the most profound beauty and gentility that can be found on our planet.

— — — — — — — — — —

[1] Offering posts involving wasps happens to be something I’ve not yet completed this year, especially of my local cicada killers.  Be warned.

[2] I identified the insect invasion xocobra and LD have near their front door as being the result of eastern boxelder bugs (Boisea trivittata).  My dear friends have another month or two before they need to take action on that problem.

[3] By “bugs,” LD actually means insects and not just true bugs[4], a subset of the class Insecta.

[4] True bugs constitute a type of insect in the order Hemiptera.  All true bugs have mouthparts capable of piercing tissues and sucking out fluids.  In addition, usually their forewings have hardened bases, their antennae are five-segmented, and their leg tarsi are three-segmented or shorter.

Waning numbers

On June 24 I mentioned the near biblical invasion of fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea).  On June 29 I showed you pictures of the little furry beasts.  They were everywhere by then, raining down from trees like so much precipitation, falling from ceilings and ledges and any other perch as though the heavens themselves had opened up to release this plague.

My, how times have changed.

On July 4, Independence Day, I photographed my last fall webworm.  This insect represented one of many still scrambling about the patio but also showed the most tolerance for my invasion of its personal space.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) (202_0228)

That very same day I also captured images of the next stage of growth for this creature.  One such cocoon was hidden in a place easily accessible to both my eyes and my camera.  Several others could be seen tucked quietly in various nooks and crannies, but I found this one most available for a picture session.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) cocoon (202_0223)

They had numbered so many.  I therefore experienced a great shock when I realized they had stopped amassing the great army that seemed intent on visiting us.  Why?  I asked the same question, and I discovered the answer is one applied to a great many things lately… at least here in Texas.

You see, while nature saw fit to provide winter and spring weather most agreeable with these destructive little monsters, it promptly reversed course and offered forth a summer that did nothing but reduce their numbers in vast quantities.  All the rain, cooler than normal temperatures, and high humidity visited widespread death upon the still emerging caterpillars.  To their dismay, it seems only the first wave survived.

Ten days later—yesterday—when I stumbled upon the first emergent adult from these creatures, I finally understood there would be no further incursion.  The days of the fall webworm had come and gone almost as quickly as the cicada-killer wasps.  A strong showing at the beginning of the season failed to save them from an undeniably more powerful foe—Mother Nature.  While they might be a part of her production, they represent a tiny fraction of her attention.  She has no problem stepping all over their great showing in order to advance her own agenda.

Nevertheless, I want to share these adult photographs taken yesterday.  Many of these snowy moths now permeate the air and area around my patio.  And more of them are sure to come, for more of them remain in their cocoons as they await their own maturation.

A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0392)
A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0397)
A fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) (203_0400)

[one might easily confuse the adults of this species with the Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica); one would be wrong in doing so; we have seen innumerable fall webworm caterpillars, but one thing we’ve not seen at all is Virginia Tiger Moth caterpillars]


I said fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) had begun a nearly unprecedented invasion of Texas, or at least North Texas where I live.  I even mentioned the virtual downpour of these caterpillars at xocobra and LD’s place, where they fall through the trees in such large numbers that it sounds like rain.  They’re everywhere, something confirmed by the enormous infestation seen in Rick’s back yard as the tiny critters mass their attack and march unmercifully from limb to limb, tree to tree, until they have spun ethereal homes around every last bit of foliage.

And now they have arrived at the xenogere homestead.

Despite the unending rains that have prohibited me from getting out for walks at the lake lest I find myself mired in pits of mud and washed away by floods that don’t end, I have enjoyed witnessing a profound—dare I say biblical?—invasion of this caterpillar species.  They now swarm about my patio en masse from the bushes to the tree, and I even found one today trying to worm its way through the closed doors that lead to the living room (they’ve yet to make their way to the bedroom doors).

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) on the patio fence (201_0187)

This one scampered about the fence as though in a hurry for reasons I could not possibly understand.  And oh how they scamper.

They are indeed fast little insects, what with all the legs involved in locomotion, and I had a terrible time trying to keep up with it as it rushed about in fevered passion to find yet one more leaf, one more branch, one more meal.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) on the patio fence (201_0186)

I chased it with abandon.  Dozens of clicks of the camera yielded little presentable evidence of the pursuit, however, as too often I found myself in possession of images clearly showing painted wood with a bit of blurry creature in one corner or another.

A fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) on the patio fence (201_0180)

Yet there it is for all the world to see, a fall webworm enjoying one of the few bits of sunlight we’ve seen ’round these parts in at least two months.  How brief it was, too.

Now, much like what I witnessed at xocobra and LD’s place, not to mention Rick’s place, they rain down from my meager little tree like so much precipitation.  Only a few moments ago I stood and watched more than dozen tumble to the ground from the ligneous outcroppings dangling above my head.  They land, get their wits about them, and promptly climb to something higher than what the earth offers.

And they do these things in vast quantities.

An eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) on a large web (178_7824)

At the family farm in March, though, I enjoyed seeing a large nest of these bottomless herbivores as they struggled to escape a fallen sapling.  Similar to fall webworms in that they build web nests in trees, the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is larger and more colorful.

Mom worried terribly for her dogwoods, so an effort was undertaken to dispatch the horde.  What I didn’t tell her at the time was that such actions are fruitless unless acted upon at the first signs of a colony.  Otherwise, it’s too late.

A mass of eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) on a large web found on a fallen sapling (178_7825)