Although most people associate bagworms only with Christmas trees, these pests can pose a problem for homeowners as well as gardeners all year. However, there are natural methods you can use to eliminate an infestation.
This post will discuss bagworms, how to identify them, and natural ways to get rid of them.
Mature bagworms can do a lot to plants. They eat the leaves of plants and can quickly destroy their foliage. They don’t just eat the leaves, though; bagworms also eat the buds and flowers of plants.
Bagworms are among the small plant pests that can be hard to identify. They can grow up to 1/2-inch in length and can be either green or brown in color. They are often confused with caterpillars but their distinctive cocoons look like bags.
Look for cone-like, brown-colored growths hanging from trees to identify bagworms. The critters can look similar to pine cones on evergreen trees. However, those on deciduous trees may appear as dried leafy growths hanging from the branches.
The larva can use its legs to move across surfaces and drag the case around like a snail. These cases are made during the larva stage (larval), which is when most people first notice them.
The bags will contain the female adult’s pupal case where the eggs are kept. You will find these bags on your ceilings, walls, or surface in your yard. You may see them attached to trees, twigs, or plants with a piece of silk.
The adult male bagworm moths look dark and hairy with a wingspread of about 1 inch . Adult plaster bagworm moths can also be seen. They are usually dark gray and have 3-4 spots on their front wings.
What about the eggs? The female produces eggs in her pupal bag not long after mating. These eggs are smooth and cylindrical, covered with a waxy, tuft-like layer. They also appear in masses.
If you are unsure if you have bagworms, take pictures of the infestation and send them to an expert.
How to Get Rid of Bagworms Naturally
There are many DIY home remedies and organic ways to control bagworms in your garden and home. Below, we’ve listed for you the most common and effective methods.
1. Hand Pick
Hand-picking the critters from plants or trees is one of the easiest ways to control them. Although this can be a bit time-consuming, it is the best way to get rid of them.
Ensure that you get every cocoon because if you leave one, it can lead to another generation of bagworms.
Also, be sure that you thoroughly check all affected trees and plants for eggs. If you don’t remove them, they can hatch into new bagworms.
2. Remove Debris From Under Trees
Prevent bagworms from maturing by simply raking up the leaves under your trees.
This will remove eggs and larvae. However, be sure to dispose of all debris correctly — either by burning them or by sealing them in a bag and disposing of the bag.
3. Soap and Water
Yes, you can eliminate bagworms using something as simple as soap and water. All you’ll need is a bucket of plain soapy hot water.
After picking off the bagworms, just submerge them into the soapy water. They will be dead in seconds.
Another method is to spray the worm bags on trees. Add one tablespoon of dish soap to a gallon of water. This soapy water solution will kill them eventually.
4. Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis (or Bt) is a natural bacteria used to control certain pests. It causes bagworms to die by attacking their digestive system.
Bt can be purchased in spray or powder form. You will often find it at garden centers. Follow the directions carefully before using. Bt is an excellent alternative to chemical-based insecticides and is safe for pet owners or children.
5. Predatory Birds
Bagworms can be easily eliminated by predatory birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, nuthatches, sparrows, and titmice.
Attract these predatory birds into your garden. They will happily eat the cocoons and eggs on trees.
6. Neem Oil
Neem oil is a very popular tried-and-true remedy that you can use to eliminate pests such as whiteflies, aphids, and spider mites. This natural pesticide is also effective against young bagworm larvae.
Mix 1½ tsp of neem oil with ½ tsp. liquid soap and a quart of water to make a homemade spray for bagworms. Next, spray it onto affected plants to treat bagworms.
Alternatively, you can buy neem oil concentrate in most garden centers or online.
7. Trichogramma Wasps
Using Trichogramma wasps is another organic method to get rid of moth eggs. Trichogramma wasps, tiny parasitic wasps, lay eggs in the eggs of bagworms. The larvae feed on the babies of the bagworms, stopping the infestation once the eggs hatch.
These parasitic wasps can be purchased at most garden centers or online. They are very easy to use. You just need to release them around your plants infested with the pests and they will take care of everything else.
Spinosad, a natural product that is made from the fermentation of specific soil bacteria, is an effective and natural remedy for these pests. It works against many pests, including bagworms.
You can purchase spinosad in concentrate form. Follow the directions on the bottle to apply correctly. Spinosad is an organic bag worm treatment.
9. Moth-Repelling Plants
While this may sound far-fetched, some plants repel moths naturally.
Plants that repel moths include rosemary, thyme, chrysanthemum, citronella, marigold, eucalyptus, and lemongrass. Plant them in pots or from seeds in various locations around your yard to keep these pests away.
10. Bug Zapper
This is an effective way to get rid of bagworm moths. The traps are equipped with an electrical grid that will shock them to death.
Although the light doesn’t generate heat, it attracts these pests. You can use a solar-powered zapper indoors or outdoors.
11. Turn off Outdoor Lights
If you can discourage the moths from coming over to your property, there will be fewer bagworms to deal with later. Moths love light, especially at night when the sky is dark and your outdoor lights are the only light source they can spot.
Therefore, switch off your patio lights where possible. Additionally, turn off all other lights that are not necessary.
12. Vacuum Them
You can quickly and easily remove bagworms with any regular handheld or cordless vacuum cleaner.
This is a safe way to reduce their numbers. Empty your vacuum bags and canister after.
Bagworms can be a serious problem for your trees and shrubs. However, as you can see, there are quite a few eco-friendly methods to keep them away from your plants and home. Try a few to see which ones work best for you.
Image via commons.wikimedia.org