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I have 2 catalpa trees that I planted about 6 years ago. I wanted some diversity in my yard and knew to expect caterpillars. I didn't really expect the complete defoliation that followed and am trying to decide whether to remove the trees while they are stilll small enough for me to do it. Can the caterpillars affect other trees? Are they beneficial?
Interesting links...I have also been wondering whether the enormous number of caterpillars hosted by these trees has anything to do with the remarkable increase of yellow jacket nests in my yard the last couple of years. Last summer I had to be very cautious while digging, mowing or just walking around in shorts and got stung despite my wariness. If I could be attracting wasp colonies then I will remove the trees.
Yellow jackets do eat caterpillars (among many other things) but I don't know if the increase in your yard is due to the Catalpa worms or if it's just a coincidence. If you'd like to keep the trees you could look into some methods of controlling the worms. I think a couple of the links I posted mentioned some means of control and if you search for controlling catalpa worms I'm sure you'll find a ton of information.
Yes, I have heard that they are excellent for fishing!
Not that I want to open the door to hoards of sportsmen shaking/climbing/knocking my trees--I would have to take out some liability insurance--and expect the neighbors on my quiet street might complain.
Still I suppose in my old age I could shake the trees down each weekend and go to the farmer's market and sell catalpa worms as bait--I have been thinking of ways to make my plant habit pay!