FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Some metro Atlanta residents say it looks like Halloween has come early in their neighborhoods. Their trees are covered with what look like huge spider webs.
Channel 2's Berndt Petersen found out the fall web worms have appeared in much greater numbers, and they're chewing up the leaves. Agriculture agents said these could cause some younger or sickly trees to die.
Trees all over the metro are covered with them. Caterpillars build around themselves as they eat the leaves off your tree.
Heather Kolich, the Forysth County agriculture agent, said this process is not a pretty sight.
"They can get pretty grossed out, and they are concerned about the health of the tree," Kolich said.
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Hundreds of fall web worms form inside a bag. The caterpillars live on the leaves, sometimes all the leaves.
"I've seen some younger trees that have been completely engulfed in the webs, and there aren't any leaves left on them," Kolich said.
Kolich also said the worms appeared much earlier this year, and there seems to be more of them. She said the mild winter and the drought may have played a role in their early arrival.
The pests will eat the leaves but not the buds. Thus, unless your tree is small or very old, it should be fine.
"Many of the callers we have are concerned that the worms are actually killing the tree, but they are not," Kolich said. "They are nearing the end of the feeding period. They will soon climb down the trees. The nests will become brittle and will more easily be blown or washed down."
If you can't stand the sight of the bag, Kolich said you can use a rake or something to swat it down. If you do not swat it down, leave it alone. In the spring, the critters will emerge as moths.
Cox Media Group