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Catalpa sphinx caterpillars, also known as “Catalpa worms”, are major defoliators of catalpa, their only host. With their chewing mouthparts, they strip away large portions of the leaves. In heavy infestations they can completely defoliate the entire tree. Apparently trees on high ground with poor soil are rarely, if ever, attacked. In some years, depending on the region, many trees will have all their leaves stripped away by the end of the summer. This may be followed by years with no defoliation observed at all. The fluctuation between outbreak and no defoliation is largely due to the activity of parasites.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.
November 14, 2014