Cankerworm caterpillars of the hackberry leafroller moth have infested North Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth area, after recent rains provided conditions amenable to their life cycle.
The small green creatures, less than an inch long, are caking patio furniture with silk and even getting inside people’s homes. They have outbreaks every three to five years, but those normally happen in springtime.
Recent rains in North Texas spurred the new growth of vegetation, ideal for caterpillars to consume as they begin their life cycle. The outbreak started around Aug. 15; with the life cycle of the cankerworms being 4-6 weeks, their time as caterpillars is almost over.
“That rain prompted vegetation to come out, with new growth. Insects are going to say, ‘There’s food available, we need to get cranking’,” Wizzie Brown, a specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, told CultureMap Dallas.
Ms. Brown urged residents concerned about the caterpillars stripping their hackberry and pecan trees of leaves not to worry.
Ms. Brown noted that both trees are “going to drop their leaves in the coming months anyway. So, I really wouldn’t be too concerned about it. They’re just going to flush their leaves back out next spring like normal,” according to Texas NPR affiliate KERA.
Fort Worth resident Steven Horvath decided to let the circle of life take its course instead of trying to stem the tide of insects with pesticides.
“I didn’t want to use any pesticides at first … the research I did said that any pesticides you are going to use would harm a bunch of the other beneficial insects and it wouldn’t even be effective because there are so many of the worms,” Mr. Horvath told KERA.