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Gardener seeks advice after discovering strange creatures living in their trees: 'It looks like someone photoshopped a bunch of cats together'

"How much damage can they do?"

Walnut caterpillar, Strange creatures living in trees

Photo Credit: iStock

It can be worrying when you find a mysterious creature in your garden, especially if you've got some prized plants or vegetables you want to protect.

After discovering a clutch of walnut caterpillars in their walnut trees, one person took to Reddit — specifically the r/NativePlantGardening subreddit — to seek advice. 

Walnut caterpillar
Photo Credit: u/fullmoontrip / Reddit

After posting a picture of the caterpillars bunched up together while feeding on the leaves and branches of a tree, the Redditor had several questions regarding the potential for damage, how beneficial the creatures are, and if they would cause a problem long-term if left alone.

According to Iowa State University, walnut caterpillars are common in the eastern United States. They are typically brown and are covered in what looks like white, wispy hairs. 

While predators often pick them off, there may be reason to control the spread of the creatures if a tree has been defoliated for over two years and suffers seed or nut production problems, according to Caterpillar Identification

If that's what it comes to, one Redditor had a simple suggestion to encourage predators, saying: "Put a bird feeder underneath, problem solved!"

Caterpillar Identification also recommends pruning the lower branches of trees to minimize their impact. Meanwhile, ISU suggests scraping them off the tree and disposing of them at least 25 feet from walnut trees — pecan, hickory, and butternut trees can also be affected. If removal is not practical, ISU suggests spraying a caterpillar cluster with an insecticide while it remains on the tree. 

Caterpillars are known to be voracious feeders, so keeping them off plants can be especially important. However, if they are native to the area, they are likely already an essential part of the ecosystem, so leaving them alone might be the best option. 

Whatever you decide to do with the furry-looking creatures, there's no doubt they are interesting to encounter. 

"I don't know how but it looks like someone photoshopped a bunch of cats together?" one Redditor commented.

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