As fall sets in, it’s not difficult to identify the tiny creatures called fall webworms. This time of year, these masses of larva have been busy recreating scenes from sleepy hollow as they prepare to over winter in the pupa stage.
This display of web weaving starts when the adult tiger moth lays her eggs on the underside of leaves in ‘hair’-covered clusters of a few hundred. Host plant selection is dependent on factors like the plant’s degree of sun exposure, age, environmental stress undergone, toughness, and nutritional quality. For an insect that needs energy for processes like dispersal or diapause, consuming plants that provide a lot of carbohydrates could is beneficial; for a female insect that is producing eggs, consuming plants that provide a lot of protein is beneficial. In the eastern U.S., pecan trees, black walnut, American elm, hickory, fruit trees, and some maples are preferred hosts.