Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Pine sawfly larvae are out and about - Check your Scotts, Red, Mugo, and Austrian Pines
Keep an eye out for tent caterpillars and Pine sawfly larvae. Look for shriveled and missing needles on pine branches just below the newly forming candles (Photo 1). The larvae are gregarious and form in numbers on these sections of the plant. They are quite voracious and can strip a tree quickly (Photo 2). It is best to wash them off the plant with water rather than to use an insecticide. See Jeff Hahn's article for a more detailed account of pine sawfly.
Pine sawfly larvae exhibit some fascinating forms of defensive behavior. Colonies of larvae will rear their heads in unison when disturbed. This behavior may serve to startle potential predators (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vve7BtXh3Vw).
Pine sawfly larvae also collect pine resin in a special gut compartment as they feed. When attacked by a predator, the larva will regurgitate a droplet of pine resin and try to dab it on the predator. Ants and other predatory insects will often abort the attack and try to remove the sticky resin by cleaning behavior.