These days, my preferred camping style is a night spent at a B & B. Not so for the fall webworms that have erected tents in the black cherry tree by the corner of our house.
Unlike the eastern tent caterpillar that makes its tent in the crotch of trees and feeds outside the enclosure, the fall webworm prefers the tips of branches.
These silk weavers eat three times a day–morning, mid-afternoon and evening. All their action takes place inside, where they defoliate the trees, leaving behind skeletonized and dried up leaves, plus their own chunks of caterpillar scat.
As they move, they spin silk, creating a finely woven mass that enshrouds the tree branches. I have to wonder–how in the world do they move through this maze of fiber? I suppose the bright side is that Japanese beetles sometimes get enveloped and thus paralyzed in the silk.
Even some of the cherries get entrapped by the web.
Though I’ve seen the webworms here for years, this is the first year that I remember the tree producing so many cherries–the resident catbirds are happy campers.
Despite repeated attacks by this pest, the tree has been growing for at least the past 23 years. Its leaves are alternate and oblong, coming to a point and featuring a finely serrated edging of teeth.
One way to ID a black cherry is to flip a leaf over and look for the rusty brown hairs along the midrib that grow close to the stalk.
Another defining factor–lenticels. What? Not lentils. Lenticels. All trees have lenticels, but they are more obvious on some than others. Lenticels are tiny slits in the bark that allow for gas exchange–like the pores in our skin.
When I take time to study something up close, I begin to notice other things. My first thought for this addition to the twig was slug. But it wraps all the way around the tree and is hard–almost crystalized. It’s a gall caused not by an insect, but rather by an infection of the Dibotryon morbosum fungus. Once the fungus invades, the tree creates a tumor-like growth.
That’s not the only thing hanging out here.
I’m going out on a limb to identify these as members of the sawfly species.
And now I’ll leave you with some fruit for thought–or at least for the birds and all who gather here, both inside and outside the tent. Thanks for spreading the seeds.
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