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Insect of the Week: Bagworm Moth
August 11, 2016
The bagworm is a unique insect I had heard a lot about but hadn't gotten the opportunity to see in person until I was at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska for a University of Nebraska Extension class that trained insect education volunteers. The bagworms were infesting evergreen bushes near the front of Peter Kiewit Lodge. My family returned to Mahoney for a brief vacation several weeks later and my son, Bennett, and I spent even more time observing them up close.
The species I saw at Mahoney was, I believe, the Evergreen Bagworm Moth. The insects live a long period of their lives in a bag that will hang from trees and bushes, looking very much like a pine cone or something similar. The silk these moths use to produce their bags is incredibly strong, very difficult for a human to pull apart. These insects are so amazing that they even attach pieces of their host plant to their bag to provide further camouflage. They are very difficult to spot at first.
They are fascinating to watch, dragging this huge bag behind them as they crawl. For those who know the stretch of I-80 between Lincoln and Omaha, Mahoney has the giant flag pole near the Platte River Bridge. I saw several bag worms had climbed approximately 2/3 of the way up what most certainly is one of the tallest flag poles in the entire state!
The males eventually leave their bags as adult moths to mate. However, the females never leave the bags even after becoming an adult moth. The males just come to them.
Bagworms are considered a considerable pest and you could see the damage they heavy had done to the evergreen bush they were covering in huge numbers. If you have them on a tree or bush I highly recommend taking them seriously, pulling them off the tree or contacting your local extension agent to learn about options to control them.