You may be eying those webworm or tentworm infestations and wondering if they can become a ready-to-eat meal for birds. Maybe. In fact, birds and wasps are their biggest predators. Getting through the tough webbing is an impossible task, of course, without a little human help. That’s why many experts recommend creating an opening in the tough protective “tent.”
Some people may want to take the feeding opportunity a step further. Those who are paying the price for commercial mealworms and other goodies might find ways to cut back on the budget during a webworm infestation. If your neighbors are willing, you can also collect those pesky worms from their yards as well. While not a recommended method for everyone, it’s easy enough to try, while proceeding with caution into harvesting and setting up a feeding area.
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Keep in mind, though, that webworm bodies are covered in long bristly hairs. That may send birds in search of more fleshy tidbits.
Here are a few tips for feeding webworms to your back yard birds.
Be sure the webs have not been treated with chemical pesticides. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), however, won’t harm the birds. When collecting from neighbors, always ask first to be sure none of the webs have been sprayed.
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The best method is to remove a branch with the full web and place it near your bird feeding station. A larger, healthy tree won’t be affected by removal. Do not take branches from very young trees. Break open the web, leaving the leaves and worms in place. You’ll quickly see which birds find these pests attractive. This also helps keep the worms contained. Remember, webworms are “smart survivors” – they expand their nest areas at night when predators aren’t around to attack.
You can also simply break open the webs with a sharp stick at the tree site and let birds and wasps feed on the spot. This is a much easier way to provide access without the worry of transport.
If nesting season and a webworm or tentworm outbreak coincide, you’re in luck. Adult birds are on almost constant patrol for food to take back to their hatchlings.
If you’re planning to try feeding webworms to the neighborhood birds, be aware that you might be raising the risk of a greater infestation in your own yard. The worms pupate, then spend the winter either underground or in pockets behind tree bark. In warmer areas, they may return more than once during the year.
Supervise the feeding station, if possible. You don’t want web worms wandering off in search of new food sources. Once disturbed, they may attempt an escape. Destroy the uneaten worms you’ve collected after a certain period passes. Smashing them first before tossing in the trash is the most effective method of disposal.
As an alternative to more expensive treats, including mealworms, making webworms available is certainly worth an attempt. You won’t have problems harvesting when there’s an infestation as webworms have an appetite for more than 100 tree species.