Bagworms

Bagworms are the most common insect pests of juniper, arborvitae, cedars and other needle-bearing evergreens. They also occasionally attack broadleaf trees and shrubs like river birch and Indian hawthorn. Infested trees are made unsightly by defoliation and the presence of the bags. Heavy infestations can cause total defoliation, making it necessary to replace the affected plant. The caterpillars live inside silken bags which they cover with pieces of foliage from their host plant. The caterpillars also pupate inside these bags and adult females never leave the bags. They simply mate with the winged males, deposit their eggs inside the bags, and die. Bagworms overwinter inside these bags as eggs, which hatch the following spring. Because there is only one generation per year, proper spray timing is the key to good control.

Control Bagworms: Removing the bags by hand is a good control option for small trees with light infestations, but you may need to use scissors or hand pruners to cut the strong silk fibers that attach the bags to the tree. For heavy infestations or large plants, spray with an insecticide containing spinosad (Fertilome, Bonide, Monterey and Greenlight companies all sell spinosad products). For best control, apply sprays shortly after eggs have hatched in the spring and before caterpillars have grown large enough to cause significant damage. This is about the time crape myrtles have finished leafing out. Bagworms do not normally occur on crape myrtles, but bagworm egg hatch coincides with spring leaf development of crape myrtles. Avoid spraying with products like carbaryl, malathion, acephate, or pyrethroid insecticides (permethrin, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, etc.). These products will kill bagworms, but they are also prone to trigger spider mite outbreaks, and there are no good treatment options for home gardeners to use against spider mites.

See Insect Pests of ornamental plants in the home landscape, page 20 and pages 35-36 for more information on bagworms.

Printer Friendly and PDF

Publications

Publication Number: P2472
Publication Number: P2652

News

Crape myrtle bark scale were found in Mississippi in March. This invasive insect, photographed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, on March 15, 2015, attacks beautiful and normally low-maintenance crape myrtles. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman)
Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Insects-Ornamental Plants, Insects-Pests, Landscape Architecture, Trees April 2, 2015

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. -- A new insect pest found in Mississippi on March 15 could take away the crape myrtle’s status as a beautiful and low-maintenance landscape tree.

Crape myrtle bark scale, or CMBS, is an invasive insect that came to the United States from China. It was first found in Texas in 2004 and has since spread east to Shreveport and Houma, Louisiana; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Germantown, Tennessee. Ocean Springs joined this list when the insect was found on the coast in Jackson County.

Contact Your County Office

Your Extension Experts

Extension Professor
Entomology; extension insect identification; fire ants; termites; insect pests in the home, lawn and