Catalpa "Worms"

Sep 27, 2018

Credit SC Public Radio

Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow.  A nearby stand of catalpa trees is kept pruned so that the owners can easily reach catalpa sphinx moth caterpillars that use the leaves as their larval food source. This stout but dully colored caterpillar is actually hard to find – most stands of catalpa I see don’t have them feeding on them. Their infestations seem to be sporadic; many other insects parasitize these creatures and some people actually purchase pupae to inoculate their trees. The caterpillar has a spine on its abdomen but that’s just to scare you—it does not have the harmful stinging setae of some Lepidopteran larvae. Because these caterpillars have a thick skin, they stay on a fishing hook and are considered to be about the best bait out there. Catalpas are also called catawbas but the correct spelling of the genus is catalpa, and I live on Catalpa Street in St. Matthews!