If you’ve been raking leaves recently, you’ve probably noticed little green worms hanging from the trees. They seem to be in abundance this year and can be found crawling on driveways, just hanging around, and maybe even feeding on oak tree leaves.
These green worms that are all over the yard are oak leafrollers (Archips semiferanus) or oak leaftiers (Croesia semipurpurana). Some people may refer to them as inchworms, however a number of different caterpillars can go by that name. Leafrollers and leaftiers range in length from 1/4″ to 1″. The adult form of these insects is a 1/2″ long moth. The oak leafroller moth is mottled tan and brown and the oak leaftier moth is yellow with brown markings.
In May, the adults of both species lay their eggs in the twigs and leaf buds of a number of tree species. The eggs don’t hatch until March of the following year. When the caterpillars emerge, they feed on the newly forming leaves and flowers of oak, hackberry, pecan and walnut trees. If they are disturbed, they will stop feeding and hang from a strand of silk. Oak leafroller caterpillars pupate in tree branches, while oak leaftier caterpillars drop to the ground and pupate in leaf litter. Adult moths emerge in one to two weeks.
The oak leafrollers and oak leaftiers don’t really do enough damage to be considered pests, but they are a bit of a nuisance. Thankfully, birds and parasitic wasps will eat and kill the majority of the population. For in-depth information on most of the interesting insects in your yard, please visit the UF/IFAS Featured Creatures Website.