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Oakworms taking over neighborhoods in Orcutt

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Posted at 3:52 PM, Jul 19, 2021

Some Orcutt residents are dealing with an invasion of insects that are chewing the leaves off of their oak trees.

There's an oakworm infestation in the neighborhood near Ralph Dunlap School.

"This is a mess," said Carol Sorenson. "We keep trying to knock 'em down and spray 'em but you know, there's millions of 'em."

The insects are covering fences, patio furniture, sidewalks or just about anywhere there's an oak tree in sight.

"And then they hang from the rafters on webs as you can see," Sorenson said.

The longtime Orcutt resident says he doesn't remember a takeover of this type of caterpillar in his nearly six decades here and he's not alone.

"I've been here since 1982 and never ever anything like that, ever," added another neighbor, Consuelo Solorio.

Besides overwhelming yards with their presence, they're also munching away at the leaves of the oaks.

"We see the trees started getting sad," Solorio said.

"The tree was just almost annihilated of leaves," Sorenson added.

Experts say infestations of California oakworms happen every so often.

"It's a cyclical insect so typically, a neighborhood may see a really bad infestation every five to seven years or so," said Lottie Martin, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner in the Santa Maria office.

Because they can fly from tree to tree once they're moths, Martin adds that residents should just let them run their course which Sorenson plans on letting them do.

"They'll probably run out of something to eat and go to a better place," Sorenson said.

The Ag Commission says the oakworms go through two to three life cycles per year so an infestation can last up to two years.

Ag officials add that there was a large oakworm infestation in Goleta about eight years ago.