Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A plague of worms

No, not earthworms. Web worms. And their cousins; other leaf-eating worms that don’t web up but can strip a tree in a week.

We have a tree in our back yard that’s called a Live Oak. No, that’s not as opposed to a dead Oak. These trees are related to the oak in that they make acorns, but their leaves are small and dark green, and stay on the tree all year long. Even when it freezes.

It’s like having a deciduous evergreen.

They grow maybe twice as tall as a house, and provide dense shade. During a South Texas summer, dense shade is very nice. They require little maintenance, and don’t make a mess in the yard.

So, what’s the downside? Well, every year in late October to mid November, they attract a crop of these nasty worms that eat their leaves.

The first time we noticed this was when the tree was small. I glanced into the back yard one day and commented that our tree was dying, since about half of the limbs and branches were bare. Carol hadn’t noticed, so we went out to look at it. The darn thing was literally crawling with worms!

The worms would drop off to the ground and then climb back up. There were worm droppings all over the ground under the tree.

I went to Lowes, bought a bottle of Malathion, and sprayed the heck out of the tree. The next day the worms were all dead and the tree slowly began to put leaves back on. That act has become an annual ritual in the fall.

Guess why I’m telling you all this. Give up? Yep, THEY’RE BA-A-A-CK!

So this afternoon, after work, I put on old clothes and sprayed Malathion all over our Live Oak tree. It’s now higher than the house and the hose can barely get the spray up to the top branches. In the process I sprayed myself quite thoroughly as well.

Yes, I’ve showered and put my stinky clothes outside. But the house now reeks of that oily Malathion smell.

The good news is, the smell will be gone by tomorrow.

And so will the plague of worms.


Candace said...

Thanks for not posting pics!

Badabing said...

I know you made sure they weren't 'attack worms' before you aproached them. :-)

Anonymous said...

Your worms sound worse than mine. Glad you were able to solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

Gross. Now pray tell, who cleans up the dead worms?

Duke_of_Earle said...

Badabing: That occurred to me. But the number present in the tree appeard to be small enough that I figured I could fight them off if necessary, armed as I was with a poison sprayer!

Michelle: Well, they will fall off the tree as they "expire" and drop to the ground. There I assume they will "biodegrade." As in "dust to dust, ashes to ashes." As I said to Badabing above, this time I was able to apply the poison spray before their numbers became too great, so the pile beneath the tree should be manageable. (That IS gross, isn't it?)


kenju said...

We have an oak tree that overhangs our deck in a few places. In August, it is crawling with caterpillars and they can strip a branch in a couple of hours. I may have it chopped down soon, though, because I can no longer stand the inch-deep layer of caterpillar crap that collects on the deck and concrete pool surround. And if it gets wet before I can sweep it off the deck, it turns into a 1/2" layer of slime that makes it difficult to walk. I am afraid to spray malathion; want to come up here and do it for me next August??

Anonymous said...

Duke, for problems like this rather than using chemicals you can hire a hedgehog for the weekend.

A hedgehog lives on worms and can even climb up trees (which not a lot of people know about). When the hedgehogs has eaten them all they will even hibernate for the winter and then come out next year for a feed.