The buck moth caterpillar is a serious pest that causes leaf death in oaks, particularly in the New Orleans area. It is found from Maine to Georgia and west to California. The moths are striking with dark gray wings an irregular, median white band and a crescent-shaped white mark bordered in black on each wing.
Effects on the Tree
Caterpillars consume the leaves of oak trees (primarily live oak, but also water oak). They destroy the natural beauty and vigor of the tree, making it more susceptible to attacks by other insects and diseases.
The moths emerge from the soil in late October and each female deposits whitish-tan eggs around the oak tree.
Larvae hatch over a prolonged period starting in early spring. Sometimes caterpillars are present before the oak leaves have emerged. By May, the larvae have gone through five growth stages.
Buck moth caterpillars are often grouped when young, following each other in a single file. They can often be seen migrating across the lawn or climbing on the sides of the buildings as they search for places to lay eggs in the fall. The moths normally appear at the beginning of deer hunting season, thus the name buck moth.
There are several control options to choose from, including biorationals and horticultural oil. In addition, the affected trees should be fertilized with Arbor Green PRO to improve recovery and overall vigor.