In the past week, we have been receiving calls from people who claim to hear something eating their trees.

In the past week, we have been receiving calls from people who claim to hear something eating their trees.

Actually, this is an occasional problem created by the variable oakleaf caterpillar that has taken refuge in the forest lands across Arkansas this year. The green caterpillar can be up to one and a half inches long and will have light-colored stripes the length of the body and dark patches as well. The sounds you hear are their body excrements falling on leaves when infestations are large as reported. According to University of Arkansas entomologist, this insect larva creates a stir every few years in some areas. However, it does not kill the trees unless defoliation continues from other problems such as a continued drought. With that in mind, we are concerned.

There is no recommendation for spray programs for forested areas, but people may want to use a caterpillar product on young trees that can be easily sprayed with available equipment in the landscape. Contact the Extension office at 870-534-1033 for a list of products and ideas for management.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the pest through their life cycle this summer. Trees have a remarkable ability to re-leaf and survive these attacks. However, with no rain in sight, we worry a little about other insects and disease combined with the caterpillar damage as trees try to store root reserves for next year.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Dennis Bailey is the Jefferson County Extension agent-staff chair.