Hello, I live in central MD and when we bought this home three years ago, the landscaping came with it. I don’t know half of what shrubs and plants I have but I noticed today these caterpillars all over fir-like shrubs I have. Two of the shrubs seem completely dead, no needles and one has hundreds of these guys clinging to the bark. It is early September here and this is the first time I’m seeing them. One picture shows a close up of the critter, the second shows what is happening to the shrubs. I am also noticing holes in many leaves of the plants I have, some of my mums are dying and the day lilies aren’t doing too well either. Not sure if I should leave these critters to do their thing, or do they have to go and if so how…..they are all over. Thanks Moni so much!
The insect you show is the red-headed pine sawfly larvae. The adult sawfly is actually related to bees and wasps not flies nor butterflies as the caterpillar looking larvae might suggest.
There are several species of sawflies that feed on pines. This species eat the foliage of pine, cedar or fir plants. Younger larvae eat the outer edges of pine needles leaving behind the central tissue, which wilts and dies, forming what looks like dried straw. This makes sawfly damage distinctive. Older larvae eat the entire needle. One year of damage will not kill the plant but if they come every year it will eventually cause the plant to die or not grow well.
For control there are some natural enemies and a few diseases. If you have just a few plants with larvae, you can pick off the larvae and drop in a bucket of warm soapy water or put the pan or bucket under a branch and knock them into the container. If that does not get enough of them, you can spray with horticultural oil labeled for sawflies, or spray with insecticidal soap. Read and follow label directions.
The larvae feed together in large groups for about 4 weeks then drop to the ground and overwinter in cocoons. In the north there is one generation per year, in the south there are 2-3.
These are not the problem with your mums nor causing the holes in your other plants. Grasshoppers and other foliage feeding critters are probably feeding on those other plants.
The other dead evergreens may be due to problems from last winter or other things like disease, wet feet…hard to know without knowing all about the conditions. We can deal with insects you see here…only.