Caterpillars of all shapes and sizes, both moths and butterflies, are invading areas of the garden at this time of year. Some, like the black swallowtail caterpillar, I welcome; others are pests, like the Eastern tent caterpillar, and then there are a few that interest me, like the Redbud Leaffolder.
A tiny moth caterpillar, the Redbud Leaffolder (Fascista cercerisella), has turned some of the tree’s lovely heart shaped leaves into a patchwork quilt by folding or rolling the leaves. These black/white striped caterpillars pull a corner of the leaf over and ‘stitch’ the edges together with silk thread while they consume the leaf from the inside. I have opened some of the leaves to have a peek inside. I found several caterpillars in each fold and I was met with a flurry of movement. The caterpillars twist and jump, eventually falling to the ground as an escape.
The adult is a teeny black moth with white spots. I have read that that these common moths breed twice a summer. I would not describe our tree as infested and I’m not ready to use pesticides. I’m watching and waiting. If I sense a problem, I’ll first try picking the leaf and stepping on it to squish the inhabitants. Pesticides will be the last option and it would have to be ruinous for the redbud before I take that final step.
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester