Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bagworm Infestation in North Texas!!!

Its not all rainbows and butterflies around here this week.  Our Bald Cypress trees are under attack.  I planted 9 trees total in my front and back yards over the past 12 years based on recommendations from area gardening experts.  Bald cypress are considered hardy trees for North Texas.  I work in downtown Dallas and the building I work in has been planted exclusively with these trees to create a lovely environment.  They are also planted extensively in landscapes around the metroplex (e.g., Town East Mall in Mesquite, TX).  Imagine my surprise when we realized this past week that my trees are being eaten alive by bagworms, a caterpillar that eventually develops into a moth.  I'm pretty tolerant of insects and try to live in peaceful coexistence.  However, this particular caterpillar has crossed my threshold and we have elected to go to war (at least this season).  Here is a link to a picture of the bagworm moth - Note:  I have NEVER seen this moth flying around.

Texas A&M is my "go to" resource for gardening problems.  Here is a link to information provided about this pest.

In addition, the Dallas Morning News had a local article about it.

Readers of my blog posts know that my philosophy is to make gardening easy by using native plantings in the landscape that are hardy and need little water.  We typically don't use herbicides and pesticides (exception - fire ants).   I firmly believe in survival of the fittest.  However, these trees have done well in my yard up to now, and trees typically add to property value.   We are truly torn between letting the bagworms take them out or trying to save them.  We discussed and debated the issue and finally elected to try and save them this season.  Here are some photos of our very serious problem.

My son and I fought the first battle by handpicking as many of the beasts as possible on Day 1.  After handpicking them, I mowed as close to the ground as possible to maim and kill as many as I could that were still on the ground.

Notice their ingenious "bags" - made from the needles of my Bald Cypress!  If I wasn't so irritated at them killing my trees, I would be complimentary of this incredible use of their surroundings to protect themselves from predators.


We got a bucketful of the nasty critters.

 Day 2 after discovery - my husband sprayed the trees with an organic pesticide.  It had no effect at all.

Note his protective gear - for eyes, nose, mouth, and skin.  Whenever you spray with pesticides (or herbicides) you cover yourself.  Do this even if you are using "organic" products.

Day 3- he sprayed the trees with the traditional pesticide.  This had a better net effect - there were some kills - however, on Day 4 when we went out and checked, we concluded at least 75% SURVIVED!!

Too bad neither spray seemed to work.

Now what?  I went out this morning (Day 4) and picked more off the trees, but clearly it isn't working.  I'm keeping the trees watered - hopefully they will be able to fight back but according to the articles we've read, bagworms are a true killer when they invade and it is difficult to keep them from killing the host plants.  In addition, although they haven't attacked my pine trees yet - it is entirely possible that they will according to articles I've read.  We started looking at the bald cypress trees planted in the neighborhood - and noticed that ALL of them have bagworms hanging in them now.  They are in varying states of distress and it will only get worse.  I hate to say it but if we can't pull them through this season, I may cut them down and never replant them as long as I live in North Texas.  They are a beautiful tree but this is a serious problem.  



  1. How did this situation end? I know its been 2 years almost since this post, but my wife and I had issues last fall and we don't want to go through it again. It seems like you can do your part but if your neighbors don't then you might have the problem again. Thanks!

    1. The trees survived the following year and we did not have the horrible infestation that we had the previous year. I am now cognizant of the hanging bagworms and purposefully pull them off this time of year. However, yes - it could easily happen again and we'd right back to square one. I wish I had a good answer on how to address it.