Bagworms are unique pests that can cause serious damage to over 120 species of trees in the United States. Native to North America, bagworms have long been a problem for gardeners and landscapers, though they remain a mysterious pest to many.
Are you dealing with bagworms? Identifying an infestation can be tricky if you don’t know what to look for. Worse, getting rid of bagworms can be difficult and often requires hand-by-hand removal.
But don’t worry. We’re here to help. In today’s article, we’re covering how to identify bagworms, get rid of bagworms, and prevent bagworms from becoming a problem in the future.
Let’s get started.
What Are Bagworms?
Bagworms are caterpillar-like insects that go through unique life stages.
Bagworms are small pests with a very unique lifecycle. As we mentioned above, they are indigenous to the United States, though they seem to be most prevalent in the East Coast and throughout the Southeastern US.
Though quite small, bagworms can wreak havoc on a variety of tree species. Their favorite trees tend to be Evergreen trees like Junipers, Spruce Trees, Cedars, and Arborvitae trees.
Bagworms can be tricky to detect because most people don’t even see them on their trees. What you will likely see is the “bag” created by the bagworm, but if you don’t know what to look for, you may not even see that.
To understand how bagworms are such masters at camouflage, we must talk a bit about their lifecycle.
Bagworms can live for about one year, and in that time they go through a few different stages of metamorphosis. Like a butterfly, bagworms are born from eggs and hatch into tiny caterpillars. They create a type of silk that they use to float away from their “nest” and typically land on nearby trees.
As soon as they land on these trees, they began to feast. Though only about the size of a pinhead, bagworm caterpillars can devour more than 80% of a single tree, causing the tree to die.
Even if they don’t eat the entire tree, they can often cause severe damage such as browned tips, dead or dying branches, and holes in leaves.
Female bagworms stay in a caterpillar-like state throughout their lives. Male bagworms, however, pupate and emerge as small black moths. These black moths are furry and have transparent wings, often making them look like a hybrid between a fly and a moth instead of a true moth.
The male finds the female bagworm and the two mate, and then the cycle begins again.
The female bagworm uses her silk to create a nest. This nest, or bag, as it is often called, is created using whatever the female bagworm has at her disposal. This often includes twigs and debris from the tree she is currently living on, which makes the bag she creates appear as if it is a part of the tree itself.
Inside this bag, the female bagworm can lay upwards of 1,000 eggs. These eggs typically hatch around late spring or early summer.
This video talks a bit more about what bagworms are and their unique life cycle.
Although bagworms are certainly interesting, they’re incredibly destructive. Often, the only way to truly get rid of them is to keep your eyes open and remove their bags by hand. For this reason, one of the best ways to manage bagworms is to be proactive and use preventative measures to keep them at bay.
To do this, you must first understand why you are dealing with bagworms in the first place. Keep reading.
Why Do I Have Bagworms On My Trees?
Bagworms use whatever they can to allow them to camouflage into the trees and surrounding foliage.
The frustrating thing about bagworms is that they are difficult to get rid of and spread rapidly. They are most common in unprotected trees, specifically evergreen trees.
Some of the most common trees known to suffer from bagworm infestations include:
- Pine Trees
- Conifer Trees
- Cedar Trees
- Arborvitae Trees
- And Spruce Trees
However, and as we mentioned above, they can attack almost any deciduous tree they come across.
Although female bagworms don’t fly, their larvae can still spread rapidly from tree to tree. They primarily attack unprotected trees, (that is to say, trees that have not been protected with an insecticide or pesticide prior to infestation), via the wind.
Bagworm caterpillars are less than 2mm in length, meaning they are often no larger than the size of a pinhead and can easily be transferred by the wind. They use their silk to catch the wind and float to nearby trees and shrubs.
If the tree is unprotected, the bagworms quickly begin feasting and will not stop. It’s difficult to notice bagworm infestations because bagworm caterpillars are so small. Furthermore, when they begin to build their bags, these bags are incredibly well camouflaged, as we mentioned above.
Unfortunately, anyone can wind up with bagworms in their trees. This is why preventative care and diligence are so important when it comes to these pests.
Early detection can also help stop a bagworm infestation from getting out of control. Remember, female bagworms can lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time, and these pests live as long as a year.
Without action, bagworms can easily annihilate trees in close proximity to one another. With that noted, it’s time to talk about how to get rid of bagworms and then move on to prevention tactics.
How To Get Rid Of Bagworms – Tricks, Methods and Treatments
Getting rid of bagworms can be tricky, but there are remedies that can help.
As we discussed above, sometimes the easiest way to get rid of a bagworm infestation once you have one is to remove these pests by hand. The best way to do this is to cut the bags from your trees one by one and destroy them.
When you do this, it will also be important to cut the silk from around the twigs that were used to attach the bag to the tree. Otherwise, this silk can strangle the twig and cause further damage and even death to the branch down the road.
Getting rid of bagworms by hand is certainly tedious, but it’s often the most effective way to remove these pests from your trees.
If you do feel that bagworms have gotten out of control and you can’t manage an infestation on your own, it may be a good idea to contact a local pest control expert for help.
Of course, there are also products available you can try to help aid you in removing these pests from your trees, especially if you are able to identify a bagworm problem while the pests are still in their larval stage.
Insecticides and pesticides that contain diazinon, malathion, Spinosad, Neem Oil, Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), or carbaryl can help kill bagworm larvae before they get out of hand. These products can be sprayed directly on trees and foliage during an infestation to kill the pests as they feed.
We have listed some of these products below for how to get rid of bagworms in your trees for you to consider.
Fertilome Natural Guard Spinosad Treatment
Spinosad is a natural substance derived from a ground bacterium. This substance is highly toxic to pests like bagworms while also being harmless to trees and surrounding foliage. For this reason, using sprays and insecticides that contain Spinosad is one of the safest and most effective forms of treatment you can use to control bagworms.
This product helps treat common trees and is even safe to spray on citrus, vegetables, fruit trees, lawns shrubs, ornamental plants, flowers, and more. It is good not only for bagworms but also for armyworms, cat flies, sod webworms, tent caterpillars, loopers, and other common garden and tree pests you might be contending with.
The product comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle and is designed to attach to your hose for easy application.
Monterey Bacillus Thuringiensis Worm And Caterpiller Killer
Another product we recommend for bagworm control is Monteray Bacillus Thuringiensis Worm and Caterpillar Killer. This product is specifically designed to target worms and caterpillars on trees and foliage, making it ideal for controlling pests like bagworms.
This product also works on gypsy moths, cabbage loopers, cankerworms, elm spawn worms, and more.
It can be used on a variety of foliage, trees, and plants including vegetables, ornamental plants, and evergreen trees vulnerable to bagworms. Best of all, this insecticide is safe for beneficial insects and animals like bees, earthworms, birds, and ladybugs.
The product comes concentrated and needs to be mixed with water before it is used. It is user-friendly and easy to apply, coming with a trigger spraying applicator. Of course, this is an insecticide and should be used only as directed. Keep this product out of reach of children and pets.
Jack’s Dead Bug Brew Natural Insecticide
We like Jack’s Dead Bug Brew Natural Insecticide because it is certified organic for organic gardening. The natural ingredient again is Spinosad, which is an organic material found in the ground bacterium. This product is safe to use around children and pets and works against a number of pests including bagworms, beetles, caterpillars, gypsy moths, spider mites, tent caterpillars, thrips, leaf miners, and more.
It is safe to use on edible garden plants and fruit trees and will help protect and treat pest problems when applied early and used as directed. The product comes in a ready-to-spray applicator, though it should be mixed with water first. This is a hand-held spray method for bagworm control and should be used only as directed.
Southern AG Thuricide BT Caterpillar Control
Southern AG Caterpiller Control is another product that works for bagworms using Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) to kill and remove bagworms. This product comes in a concentrated 16-ounce container and is safe for organic gardeners.
It has a low toxicity rate when it comes to people or pets, though it should still be kept out of reach of children and used only as directed. When using this product as directed, it is safe to spray on all foliage including edible garden vegetables and fruit trees.
Along with helping to control bagworms, Southern AG Bt Caterpillar Control also works on tent caterpillars, thrips, and leaf miners.
Garden Safe Worm and Caterpillar Killer Concentrate
Garden Safe Worm and Caterpillar Killer again uses Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) for bagworm control. This is an organic insecticide and safe to use on edible garden plants all the way up until harvest day. The product is designed to kill a number of pests including bagworms, gypsy moths, caterpillars, tomato hornworms, and more.
This product comes in a ready-to-mix concentrate and should be used only as directed. Best of all, we like that this spray will not harm beneficial insects or animals including honeybees, ladybugs, earthworms, and birds.
BONIDE Products Ready To Use Neem Oil Spray
As we will discuss further down, Neem Oil is a natural oil you can use to kill and treat bagworm infestations. While some products contain large applicators to spray down entire trees, this spray is specifically for target spraying. It comes in a 32-ounce spray bottle and coats the pests, killing them on contact.
Not only will this Neem Oil spray work against bagworms on your trees, but it works against a number of other pests including mites, mildew, flies, and even fungus.
The product arrives ready to use and does not require any mixing. You can spray it directly on listed trees and plants, and it will help treat eggs, larvae, and adult pests.
Best Products For Bagworm Prevention
Keeping your trees and bushes healthy means using preventative methods to get rid of bagworms.
Since bagworms can be so tricky to identify and get rid of, the best method of control for these pests is often prevention. Being proactive when it comes to pest control is typically easier, less expensive, and even less time-consuming than dealing with a bagworm infestation that is actively occurring.
Furthermore, when to comes to bagworms, oftentimes prevention is one of the most effective ways to remove the pests.
Preventing bagworms means taking a proactive approach and using a combination of diligence, vigilance, and quality products to protect your trees and surrounding foliage.
Having a good understanding of a bagworm’s life cycle can also help you prepare for getting rid of the pests and preventing them, but so can implementing a quality pest control regiment year-round to keep these critters at bay.
Some of the best products to help you prevent bagworms are listed below. Take a look.
Pure Neem Oil
Neem oil doesn’t necessarily have to be mixed with an insecticide concentrate to help kill and prevent pests like bagworms. You can invest in pure neem oil and combine it with water in a bucket when removing bagworm bags to use as a method of disposal.
You can also combine neem oil with water in a spray bottle yourself (see our home remedies listed below) and spray down your trees from time to time to catch any infestations early on.
Preventing bagworms from getting out of control often means being hands-on. Remember, one of the easiest and most effective ways to remove bagworms includes removing their bags one by one.
A good pair of garden gloves will be needed in order to do this, as many of the trees and foliage bagworms tend to infest can be prickly. When you are removing the bagworms, be sure to dispose of their nests in a gallon bucket filled with soapy water or water mixed with neem oil.
BIoAdvanced Tree and Shrub Control
While the above product by BioAdvanced Tree and Srub Control may not help treat bagworms, it can help ensure your vulnerable trees are healthy and thriving. The healthier your trees and foliage are, the less likely they are to succumb to bagworm infestations or other pest problems.
We like this product because it provides a slow-release fertilizer and provides a plant food product to your trees that ensure they are revitalized and healthy. You can use this product after a bagworm infestation to help ensure your trees are restored, but we also recommend using this product before infestations.
Not only can this product help enhance the health of your trees and foliage, but it can help to stop listed infestations from recurring for up to 12 months.
Do It Yourself Pest Control Tips For How To Get Rid Of Bagworms
A bucket filled with soapy water can help remove bagworms when caught early.
Not only do you have the option of purchasing products at your local pest control store or online to get rid of bagworms, but you can also use home remedies and household ingredients to aid in your efforts.
Some of the best products to get rid of bagworms may already be in your kitchen cabinet, bathroom or pantry, and it’s worth considering if you’re in a pinch.
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite do-it-yourself pest control remedies you can use to prevent and remove bagworms from your trees.
Hand Pick Them
As we have mentioned a few times now, one of the easiest and most effective treatments for a current bagworm infestation is to hand-pick these pests. This means you will need a pair of gardening gloves and a good pair of scissors.
Remember, when handpicking bagworm nests from your trees, you’ll need to make sure you also remove the silk that attaches these bags to the tree. If you forget to do so you may still wind up with damage to your foliage, even once the bagworms have been removed.
Once you remove the bagworm bags, it’s important to dispose of them properly. We suggest using either a bucket of soapy water or water mixed with neem oil, or sealing them in airtight bags and disposing of them in the garbage.
Do not leave bagworm bags on the ground or nearby in your yard, as this could lead to them simply repopulating elsewhere on nearby foliage.
Use Soapy Water or Neem Oil In A Bucket
When removing bagworms by hand, one of the most effective ways to dispose of them is to drop them in a bucket of soapy water or water mixed with neem oil. The soap or oil in the water will effectively coat and drown bagworms, eggs, and larvae, which will ensure they are dead and unable to continue spreading.
You can use several drops of liquid dish soap in a gallon bucket, and mix this solution until it is sudsy. Then go out to your hard and carefully remove the bags by hand, dropping them in the bucket as you go.
Spray Your Trees With A Neem Oil Combination
Another home remedy you could use when working to prevent or remove bagworms is neem oil. Neem oil is a common ingredient in some of the above-listed bagworm products you can purchase. Of course, you can also use pure neem oil, as stated above.
Neem oil works by suffocating pests as it coats their bodies. This makes it an effective form of treatment for bagworms already on trees. Best of all, neem oil is natural and will not harm your trees or foliage.
Tips On Preventing Future Bagworms and Protecting Your Yard
Preventative measures may not be as difficult as you think.
Prevention is key when it comes to any type of pest control problem, but this is especially true when it comes to dealing with pests like bagworms.
Because these insects can be so tricky to identify and since they procreate and spread so rapidly, the best way to control them is to stop them before they start. If you’re not sure of where to begin when it comes to preventing the infestation of bagworms, we have listed some expert tips and tricks you can follow here.
Begin Applying An Insecticide In Late May Or Early June
While it can be difficult to prevent bagworms from infiltrating our trees, it is possible to stop the damage before it gets out of control.
The best way to do this is to apply an insecticide or pesticide that contains chemicals designed to get rid of larvae and caterpillars during May or June. This is when the caterpillars have emerged from their bag and are most likely to be out in the open munching on your trees.
The right insecticides, as we’ve covered above, are going to be those made to be digestible to the worms so they will die after eating them. These insecticides should not harm your trees and should be specifically for bagworms and other types of worm pests.
If you are hesitant about using insecticides and pesticides, remember that you do have organic or natural options as well listed above to choose from.
Keep An Eye Out For Bagworm Signs In Fall And Winter
Bagworms often begin making their nests around this time, and it won’t be until May or June when these pests emerge to feast. If you notice signs of bagworms beginning to form their bags on your trees, it is the perfect time to become proactive and remove these bags by hand.
Invite The Predators To Help You Control Bagworms
While inviting predators to help with getting rid of bagworms is not going to control them completely, it can help to reduce them. Bagworms have a number of predators and many are beneficial to your garden.
Some of the best predators that specifically feast on bagworms include:
Use Companion Planting To Help Get Rid Of Bagworms
We often talk about companion planting when it comes to pest control, but when it relates to how to get rid of bagworms, you will be using companion planting a bit differently.
Often, we recommend using plants that deter pests like garlic, chives, rosemary, and mint. However, when it comes to bagworm control, companion planting should be used to attract certain predators as opposed to repel the bagworms.
You will want to plant flowering plants near vulnerable trees to attract bagworm predators like those listed above. The best plants to help prevent bagworms are going to be flowers in the aster and daisy families.
These plants include:
- New England Aster
- Blanket Flower
- Oxeye Daisy
- And Zinnia
Protect Your Trees Before Bagworms Strike
Working diligently all year round can help protect your garden and yard from these destructive bagworm pests, so while we do offer tips on treatment, our best advice is going to be prevention.
Begin before bagworms strike and take measures to have predators in your yard and the proper sprays for your trees. And remember, stay vigilant. Bagworms may still attack no matter how hard you work to prevent them, so removing their bags from your trees early is the best way to reduce damage to vulnerable foliage.
Now it’s your turn to share what you think about bagworms! Have you encountered these nasty pests in the past?
Tell us what you think about how to get rid of and prevent bagworms in the comment section below.