People may have noticed their Ashe juniper trees, commonly called cedar, turning brown. This most likely is being caused by juniper budworms. There was an outbreak of these insects in 2002 and there was no longer term damage caused to the Ashe juniper trees. It is unknown what will happen to the
trees from the current outbreak.
Juniper budworms are a yellowish-green to green caterpillar
with a brown head capsule. The caterpillars feed on Ashe juniper
foliage and build silken tubes on the branches of the trees.
The silken tubes are typically on the tips of branches and are
where the insect pupates. Adult moths are a mottled brown
color and blend well with the dead Ashe juniper foliage. Adults
rest on the host plant during the day and do not move unless
In rural areas, it may not be feasible to manage the juniper budworms,
especially on large parcels of land. Individual landowners
may choose to treat prized trees on their property. Infested
branch tips can be removed by hand. Do not drop the branch
tips on the ground, but instead, place them into a bag and dispose
of them. If a pesticide treatment is desired, look for active ingredients
such as Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, azadirachtin (neem)
or spinosad. Products will work best on smaller caterpillars.
When using pesticides, read and follow all label instructions.
Juniper budworm larvae.
Photo by Steve Darnell.