Earlier this month I noticed a few silk-encased leaves on the pear tree. I suspected the webs were the work of Eastern Tent Caterpillars, because I had found a few of these caterpillars under the pear tree last summer.
Last summer’s caterpillars never caused a problem in the tree, but this year the tree sprouted more and more webs.
This afternoon I typed “tent caterpillar” into my web browser and within a few clicks discovered I was on the wrong track. It’s the wrong time of year, and our webs are located at the ends of branches rather than near the trunk. So these are not Eastern Tent Caterpillars. Instead, I believe they are Fall Webworms.
(My caterpillar identification process is not very scientific, consisting mostly of browsing the internet and trying find something that looks like my photos. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)
The caterpillars are not doing much damage. There are only six or seven webs, confined to the lowest branches on one side of the tree. The affected leaves are being eaten, but they represent a very small proportion of the tree’s total leaf count.
Even though our tree is not suffering, several nearby trees are completely shrouded in webs. As I’m reluctant to test the health of our pear tree, I’ve trimmed its most heavily webbed branches and opened the remaining webs as recommended.
I don’t know if the House Wrens will eat these caterpillars, or if they’ll leave them for other birds. But if they do eat the Fall Webworms, my work should make feeding their hungry nestlings a little easier.