What is Eating My Tree Leaves?

What is Eating My Tree Leaves?

If you live in southeast Massachusetts and you’re seeing damaged leaves and holes in the foliage of your trees and roses, you probably have damage from the winter moth larvae. If there are still leaves on the tree you can protect them with Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew: the active ingredient in Captain Jack’s is Spinosad, a natural soil-dwelling bacterium that kills larvae when they eat the foliage. The only caution needed about Spionsad is not to spray a blooming plant because when wet the product isn’t good for bees. (Once it’s dry there isn’t much concern.) Protecting any remaining foliage at this time of year is important because the winter moth larvae will commonly continue eating into June, and as they grow they take bigger bites!

If your foliage looks like this spray with Captain Jack's now! Wintermoth larvae especially love maples, birch, cherry, apple, and roses.
If your foliage looks like this spray with Captain Jack’s now! Wintermoth larvae especially love maples, birch, cherry, apple, and roses. Once you see damage like this, if it’s before mid-June you will want to spray. If you just notice the damage at the end of June the larvae are most likely gone and it’s too late to treat.

If you want more information about winter moth larvae see this fact sheet from the University of Massachusetts.


  1. judy on May 29, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Do you spray both sides of the leaves on will it permeate through?
    Should I put a cover on the annuals that are in bloom nearby?
    My Rhodies are also and roses are both “moth eaten”.
    Thanks for the help!

    • CLFornari on May 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Spinosad works when the larvae eats part of the leaf, so just getting either the top or the bottom is fine. Spinosad won’t hurt your annuals if it drips on them. Your roses are most likely being eaten by the same pest so spray those with Captain Jack’s too, but the damage you’re seeing on the Rhodys isn’t related. At this time of year you’re seeing old damage on rhododendrons that happened last year. Monitor the new growth as it comes in and bring a sample of any newer leaves that look eaten into the store for diagnosis should you see new damage.

  2. Irwin Ehrenreich on May 30, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I usually notice that the winter moth caterpillars are active when I see damage to my rose foliage. In other words, when it’s too late. I then spray Spinosad weekly x3. How can I tell when to begin spraying before the damage is done?

    • CLFornari on May 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      I usually start spraying once my rose leaves open and then do it at least once more when the foliage is about full-grown. That way the wintermoth larvae are killed when they take the first bites and little damage is done to my roses. I’d spray your plants soon so that as they continue to eat over the next week or two you don’t have too much foliage disappear.

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