Seminole Crop E News

Agricultural News for Farmers and Agribusiness in SW Georgia

Early Halloween Decorations

Posted by romeethredge on September 5, 2014

We get calls about strange looking webbing on trees that sometimes covers a lot of the trunk. It looks like someone is decoration for Halloween or something. My neighboring agent wrote this good article about this subject.

Strange Webbing on Trees around the County

Justin Ballew, Decatur County Ag and Natural Resources Agent

Over the last several weeks I have received a number of calls from folks that are concerned about strange looking webbing they have noticed on their trees. It’s not like the webbing from webworms that we so frequently see on the tips of branches of pecan trees or the webbing from Eastern Tent Caterpillars that we see in hardwood trees where the branches adjoin to the one another. This webbing is altogether different. It is on the trunk of the tree and resembles a layer of skin over the bark. It often extends from near the ground to high up in the branches of the tree and sometimes on the branches. When examined up close, the webbing is extremely fine, soft to the touch, and pulls apart easily. This webbing is not from a webworm or caterpillar, but from a tiny insect called a bark louse.


Despite their name, bark lice are no way related to the insects that infest human hair and bring terror to our hearts at the mention of the word “lice.” They don’t even look like human lice, but you’ll need a microscope to tell. Bark lice can be seen crawling about when their webbing is pulled apart, but they are so small that it’s not easy. Without the webbing, you would most likely never notice them at all.

Bark lice live in the furrows of bark on trees and feed on a wide range of materials including algae, lichens, pollen, and fragments of dead insects. The webbing we see is a defense mechanism for the tiny insects. They are not able to fight off predators nor are they the fastest critters in the world, so they create the webbing as a means of protection from predators and the elements.

Bark lice appear to be more numerous and noticeable this year than they have been in the past. It’s not fully understood why, though populations seem to build more quickly in times of prolonged high humidity. Aside from the webbed decorations they create on the trees they inhabit, bark lice are totally harmless. The webbing will break down as the season goes on and will be gone before you know it. If desired, the process can be sped up by washing it away with a pressure washer. Since no damage is being caused, no pesticides are recommended for bark lice.


One Response to “Early Halloween Decorations”

  1. Andy Shirley said

    I saw the same thing at a homeowners house on their oak trees! I told them not to worry about and the cold weather would get rid of it.
    Andy S.

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