By Dalton Dockery, PhD
N.C. Cooperative Extension Service
Pest Alert: Fall webworms
Every autumn fall webworms make their annual appearance in trees across North Carolina. Their nests are made up of a mass of webbing found at the end of tree branches. The webs contain many tiny hairy caterpillars.
Fall webworms are most commonly found on pecan, sourwood, and persimmon trees, though they can feed on more than 600 species of trees and shrubs.
Fall webworms can be easily disrupted by using a stick or pole to pull open webs that are within reach to expose the
caterpillars to predators such as birds and wasps. Insecticides containing Bacillus thuringiensis or spinosad can be used to spray webs within reach.
When using an insecticide, spray the foliage just beyond the web mass. Spraying the web itself is not very effective because the webbing prevents good contact with the caterpillars. If the webs are not within reach, do not worry. Although they are unsightly, the webs usually do not harm the tree’s overall health.
Fall webworms overwinter as pupae in mulch, leaf litter, and soil. Next year, adult moths will emerge in March and April to start the cycle over again.
Lawns: Prepare your lawn for winter
October is the time to get your lawn ready for the winter months. One of the widest misconceptions for turf grass in our area is that you need to add fertilizer to your lawn in the winter months. While this is true for cool-season turfgrass such as tall fescue, this does not apply to our warm-season grasses such as centipede, zoysia, Bermuda, and St. Augustine.
Fall is the time when warm-season turf grasses begin to go dormant. Applying nitrogen to the soil only encourages weed growth and the spread of turf grass diseases such as large patch. Excess fertilizer can run off into storm drains and end up in streams and rivers. If you do apply fertilizer, the nutrient to focus on is potassium (K), also referred to as potash, because it improves drought tolerance and plant hardiness in the winter months.
The only way to be sure if your lawn needs fertilizer is to have your soil tested. Soil samples can be taken any time of the year for analysis. Soil samples submitted between December and March are charged a $4 peak-season fee per sample. Getting your samples in now will avoid this fee. Contact your local Extension office to learn how. Having your soil test results in hand before the spring season gives you more time to amend your soil, lowering the last-minute scramble to get your soil ready for spring planting.
If you irrigate your lawn, you should not water past late September. Overwatering in the fall can be just as harmful as over-watering in the summer. It can increase injury in colder weather, encourage plant diseases, and also gives those pesky fall weeds like Florida betony a leg up.
Thanks to Sam Marshall, Ag. Agent Brunswick County and Jessica Strickland Ag. Agent Wayne County for contributing to this article.