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My mom asks how to get rid of an infestation of hairy caterpillars on a white cedar tree


A mum is at a loss as to what to do after making a horrifying discovery in her garden.

While the strange discoloration at the base of a white cedar tree may look like an unusual growth, it is actually a caterpillar infestation.

The woman, from New South Wales, said she planted the white cedar with her late father and he desperately wanted to save the passion tree and sought advice from the internet.

While some said they had to get rid of their trees due to a similar infestation, many said their trees had survived for decades despite the pesky insects.

Keen gardeners offered their tried-and-tested methods for eliminating caterpillars, which are attracted to the leaves of white cedar trees, from pesticides to chili and garlic water and even burning them.

A mum was shocked to discover an infestation of hairy caterpillars under the white cedar tree she planted with her late father. Desperate to save the tree, I sought advice from the Internet

The woman wrote in a letter to Mothers Garden Facebook group.

Anyway, it’s infested with maggots and I mean the stem is covered in them, and you can’t see the stem. I tried killing them with bug spray, hose them down but they kept coming back. They are even in my house.

She said that the caterpillars had “devoured” all the leaves of the tree and asked how she could get rid of them.

“Are they going to kill the tree in the end, or are they just going to eat the leaves?” she asked.

Members of the group quickly identified the caterpillars as larvae of the rice white moth and are found throughout Australia except for Tasmania.

The caterpillars will strip the leaves of a white cedar tree overnight and then retreat to wherever they can find shelter during the day which means they can be found in nearby homes, garages, cars and sheds.

Many have offered their tried and tested methods of eliminating caterpillars, from pesticides to chili peppers and garlic water and even burning them.

Many have offered their tried and tested methods of eliminating caterpillars, from pesticides to chili peppers and garlic water and even burning them.

Once they have eaten all the leaves from one tree they will move to another tree.

They also have fine hairs all over their bodies which can cause irritation or an allergic reaction on the skin if touched.

Other moms have shared their experiences with the lesions with one saying they are so common they come back every year.

We got this stuff the first year we moved into our new home. It was terrible. They come in and out of the cocoon, another remembers.

The second year was even worse. In the third year the trees are gone. I couldn’t get rid of them.

But many gave hope and said that the caterpillars should not kill the woman’s beloved tree.

This happens to my dad’s white cedar every year and the tree is still alive. One woman said: ‘I remember it for the first time in about 40 years.

We get it every year. Another said: ‘The tree doesn’t die but the caterpillars are an absolute nightmare.

Get a pump bottle of Bunnings insecticide and spray it on the tree.

Everything you need to know about the larvae of the white rice moth or “hairy caterpillars”

what are they?

The “hairy caterpillar” is the larval form of what eventually becomes a moth (known as the white rice moth).

They congregate in large clumps, and eat tree leaves. When they feed on the host tree, they tend to blend in with the color of the tree during its various stages of development.

The hairy larvae live only for up to one month, and during this period of life their bodies undergo metamorphoses, which leads to their transformation into a moth.

Why are they here?

The caterpillars usually live on and around White Cedar or Cape Lilac trees.

Once they have stripped the tree of its leaves, or the tree has lost its leaves due to fall, the caterpillars look for more food.

While foraging for new food, the larvae can track in and through homes, causing discomfort in contact with the skin. Some people are also allergic to hair.

How do you get rid of them?

Place damp, flat burlap bags around the base of the tree.

This will cause the larvae to congregate under the bags overnight.

Lift the bags in the morning and spray the larvae with a good insecticide on the surface.

source: Pest control hit

Green thumbs offered more tips for getting rid of grubs as one woman recommended wrapping a burlap sack soaked in bog oil around the stump.

We saved our tree by wrapping burlap around the base, the caterpillars stick to the burlap, so you can loosen it and drown the caterpillars. No need for toxins. Keep it up – it took a few months, said another.

If you get a peel bag and soak it in kerosene and tie it around the base of the tree but try to fold the top out a bit, the maggots will get in and stay in the bag and then when the time comes you take it off and burn it. An old man told me this years ago, a third explained.

One recommended getting advice from an expert or a worker at a local botanical garden, and another said she collects seeds from the tree to replant it and preserve the memory of her father.

Someone suggested: “Try spicy garlic water, drizzle with it, and make it extra strong.”

“We had those and I sprayed them with fly spray and they went away!” Another park replied.

Plant some rosemary around the base. A third added that the caterpillars hate rosemary and are very hardy and rarely die.

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