Juniper worms infesting cedar trees near Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas is known for it’s lush, rolling hillside views. But an invasive worm is turning the landscape brown and creating a fire danger along the way.

“We’ve noticed over the last number of weeks that all of the webworms have been covering all of the cedar trees,” said Glenn Kikel. “We started seeing brown in all of the driveways and everything else, just large amounts of dead needles.”

It means his trees are now becoming a fire hazard.

“If it kills the trees, the trees will all have to be removed,” said Kikel. “All the dead tea trees will have to be removed because of the fire hazard involved.”

Wizzie Brown with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service confirms worms have been reported on cedar trees southwest of Austin.

“They’re a leaf roller,” said Brown. “So they will roll up the tips of those branches. The leaves in those areas tend to turn brown.”

Brown says the bug also attacked in 2002 but drought conditions make trees weaker today.

But there is a way to get rid of them.

“You can either hand pick those or physically prune off the juniper bug worms and get rid of them off the property,” said Brown. “Then the tree should be able to start to recover.”

But that’s a lot of trees for Kikel, who is still trying to figure how many are infested.

Cedar trees are sort of an invasive species too.

Before European explorers, biologists think the Mountain Cedar trees were kept in tight clusters. Since then, the trees have spread. The cedar trees, known as Ash Junipers, give off a lot of pollen.

To report possible bug infestation call Texas A&M Agrilife extension at (512) 854-9600.

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