And God created … bagworms

A bag for a mama bagworm. 

Pine trees have always fascinated me. In northern Indiana, where I was raised, it seemed there were a lot of different kinds. I thought maybe they felt the winters were so long and cold that they’d better keep their “coats” on all season long. Maybe deciduous trees were confident about spring, so they flung their fall leaves to the ground (and maybe they shivered all winter). 

My paternal grandparents had a tall blue spruce in their fenced yard. As toddlers, my only cousin and I would chase their cocker spaniel, Taffy, through that yard and round and round that tree. 

When I was 6, World War II had just ended, and GIs were given loans to become home owners. Our modest home was built in a former orchard. My dad had access to railroad damaged freight. Two tiny blue spruces were planted on the sides of our front sidewalk. Other pines were green, but these had such pretty bluish branches. 

I was an only child so I made up playthings. Those two trees and I began being friends and having conversations. A couple of deciduous trees planted at the same time withered and died in a few years. But not those in front! I even put Christmas lights on them when I got to high school. 

In 1965 at age 22, I married a Kansan and have lived here ever since. Our second home had a prominent, huge blue spruce in the front yard. I felt I’d come home! Our children helped us decorate it with bright lights each Christmas. 

The last home where we lived for eight years before retiring had a large lot and several pine trees – mostly mature blue spruces. I put a gazebo in the midst of the spruces. It provided a “retreat center” for frazzled nerves. 

In 2002 we moved to Winfield for retirement. Having lived in parsonages, the church we were leaving wanted to give us a gift for our home. Bob agreed on a four-foot high — you guessed it — blue spruce that we planted next to our driveway. It grew and flourished through the years and again, in retirement, became a new friend. 

However, three years ago we noted a few inch-long brown cone-shaped things secured tightly to the branches. We read up on bagworms and did what the directions instructed. Last year, we became more aggressive in treatment, but nothing seemed to stop those little parasites. 

They are actually moths that feed in their larval stage. Yard trees that lose their leaves in the fall are not killed by these worms – only coniferous trees. 

Just a few weeks ago, we called another expert and were told the best time for treating the blue spruces with insecticide is May or June when the eggs are hatching. Gosh, from October to May is a long time. It’s creepy for me to realize that inside those worm bags are up to 1,000 worms. The bags I’ve opened and peered at don’t seem big enough to contain that many. 

The mama worm stays inside the bag while everyone else leaves. Then she mummifies. Boy, aren’t we glad people aren’t like that? 

So with great reluctance, today we had our retirement blue spruce cut down and hauled it away. Goodbye, old friend! 

 

Cherri Baer, of Winfield, writes an occasional column for the CourierTraveler.

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