Winter Moths, Caterpillars, Wood Ticks and Mosquitoes

During the past ten years many in Plymouth County had to deal with those nasty caterpillars.  The staff at Mockingbird Hill Tree & Lawn Care LLC has been fielding calls on this subject all Winter long.  It is hard to believe that people were thinking about the caterpillar problem so early.  But this goes to show how the caterpillar invasion has effected people.  We have looked at the devastation on many properties and rural road sides caused by repeated defoliation of many tree species.  The tree mortality will be very apparent once the trees foliate.  Healthy trees can only deal with defoliation several times.  Every time a tree has to set a second set of leaves during the growing Season the leaves will be smaller collecting less energy for the biomass of the plant.  This leaves less energy for the tree to foliate the next Spring.
There is no simple answer to this question.  "Mother Nature" is unpredictable as she has shown us with weather in the past five years.  This past Winter was unseasonably warm which will have little effect on eggs hatching this Spring.  The Spring weather will have a direct effect on how many of the eggs that hatch survive.  If the weather remain warmer than usual the egg hatch could be a week or so early as well.  Eggs on the south side of a tree will hatch up to a week earlier than eggs on the north side of a tree.
The Winter Moth larva and Fall Cankerworm hatch before bud break much closer to bud swell mid-April normally.  The eggs are in the bark crevices and can not be seen with the naked eye.  They will crawl into the buds before they open and eat the flowers and young tender foliage.  They are a serious problem for orchardists, blue berry and cranberry growers.  If the foliage opens on your trees and the leaves are full of pin holes chances are good that Winter moth larva are present.  They are small green and blend in well with the foliage.  Webbing can be seen around smaller ornamental tree branches long before the caterpillars are seen with the naked eye.  You can not control the insect in the bud without a systemic insecticide that would need to be applied to the soil and take months to get into the vascular system of the tree.  Foliar spray application can begin when the leaves are -  fully foliated.  Not all trees foliate at the same time which adds to the equation.  In fact the spread of Winter Moth and Fall Canker worm is expected to grow.  If you had moths flying around last November and December you can expect the green eating machines this Spring.

Home owners need to monitor their trees for signs of activity early.  Walk around your property and carefully examine your plants.  A magnifying glass can be quite helpful.  Although my gut instinct is that the caterpillar problem is going to be very active and more wide spread than last year.  I am reluctant to say this with any degree of certainty because "Mother Nature" plays by her own set of rules.  The projected frost on 03/26/12 with a week of cooler weather could be a big factor on egg hatch for Winter Moth.  You are better off to monitor and prepare for a problem that you may not have than to have a problem that you are not prepared for.
What Can be done?
A border spray application is what we recommend for control of Winter Moth.  We spray your whole border and everything inside the border.  We are running 2-3 crews.  We can not spray in the rain or if the wind gets above 15 MPH.  You need to call the office and talk with a representative.  They will address  cost, questions and concerns and put your property on our spray list if you wish.  We have to go to the properties on the list first in order to be fair to all our customers.

I was fortunate to be able to attend a seminar several weeks ago which featured some of the top entomologists in New England.  Each guest speaker had their own topic.  Several spoke about the caterpillars, Winter Moth, one spoke specifically about the increase of wood ticks and one spoke specifically about mosquitoes.  It was extremely informative with too much detail to explain in this article.

The entomologists that spoke about the caterpillars, Winter Moth,  agreed with my comments about the egg hatch.  There will be heavy populations hatching by the end of March and maybe earlier if the weather stays real warm.  A great website for caterpillars and other insect information.

The entomologist that spoke about wood ticks said they were on the increase.  One in five Deer Ticks will carry Lyme Disease.  Protect your self while in wooded habitats with long pants.  Check your body and your children daily for ticks.  You can spray your woods border, turf and shrubs with a barrier insecticide application which will reduce tick populations.  Applications should be made in May, June and July in a normal year.  We offer these services.  If you apply insecticides yourself.  Read the label, it must be registered for tick control, the application rate will be on the label.  Mix the insecticide at the required rate do not add more.  Wooded borders in the forest duff or forest floor is their favored ground but tall grassy areas will also yield high populations of ticks.  A great website for much more information on wood ticks is .  A Deer tick has to be feeding on you for twenty four hours before the Lyme disease can enter your blood stream. 

The entomologist that spoke about mosquitoes said that the amount of stagnant water in small pools will have a direct effect on how many mosquitoes hatch.  Check your property for any container like a trash can or five gallon bucket or anything that will hold small amounts of water.  They will breed mosquitoes. So dump out any water that you find.  Check the screens in your house for holes.  Mosquitoes can carry Eastern Equine Encephalitis, EEE and West Nile Virus, WNV.  Once again protect yourself and your family.  A barrier insecticide application will repel mosquitoes and ticks in one application.   If you have to go out at dusk put on a mosquito repellant and or wear a long sleeved shirt.  Plymouth County  will spray your property for you on request.  You must call 781-585-5450.  They will spray your property for up to ten requests beginning Memorial Day through Labor Day.   Be patient this is a so called free service which we all  pay for in our taxation.  Many try to take advantage of this so the list to be sprayed can be long.  A website for more information mosquitoes, EEE and WNV is   Plymouth County Mosquitoes Control will be testing mosquitoes for EEE and WNV in Lakeville and Middleboro as soon as they emerge.  If high numbers of infected mosquitoes are found aerial application of insecticide will probably take place.  You can also contact your represenative's and inform them about how you feel individually about aerial spraying for mosquitoes whether  it be pro or con.
Lakeville MA
Mockingbird Hill
Tree and Lawn Care
Since 1987