This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Insects on fruit trees and vegetables worry the gardener, but they are no less the plague of those who garden for the pleasure of looking at beauty, as well as those who labor for something to eat. It seems too bad to have to say that there is as yet no royal road to insect destruction. The " sweat of the brow " is the only effectual way to deal with the enemy. This is of little use when the insects swarm in numbers. When, for instance, we are asked what will pro. tect us from the elm leaf beetle we are compelled to say we do not know. But there are many things which can be remedied by a little hard work, and just here it is a pleasure to say that the hard work is not always as hard as the prospect seems. A terrible pest is the bag or drop worm - terrible if left alone. It is very fond of evergreens, especially those of the Arbor vitae tribe. It eats the green leaves, and nothing is so fatal to an evergreen as the loss of its leaves. If the bag worm is not interfered with it will kill the plant surely in the feed between June and September. It makes the lover of trees sad when traveling through the country to see the many hundreds of valuable evergreens that have been tended by loving hands for many years, suffered to die by a few months neglect.
Not only evergreens, but deciduous trees are attacked by this insect, though not with such suddenly fatal results. The neglect of the insect is amazing, and it is this which leads to the prominent notice here. Not half a mile from where this is written is a lovely spot, famous in the history of our country and well worthy of all praise by the care which the owner takes to preserve all the historical mementoes, and yet make the place beautiful by the use of modern art. A few years ago a talented landscape gardener was employed to renovate the grounds, and numerous rare trees were added to the older rich collections. That it is not for mere show, but for intelligent enjoyment, is evident to anyone who travels the highway, and who may often see the members of the family walking through the grounds and enjoying the growth and flowering of their vegetable treasures, yet here are rare trees completely devoured by these pests, which may be seen from the roadside as thick on the branches as confectionery on a well-trimmed Christmas tree. Ten or fifteen minutes would clean the whole corps from a tree in July, soon after their first appearance. It is too late to do anything now. The bags are empty, but do not forget them next year.
But there is one enemy which can best be attacked now and all through the winter. So far as we know now it has yet no common name, but the cocoons may be seen on the trunks and main branches of city trees, looking like lumps of white wool. It is the product of a night moth which seems to follow the English sparrow, - progressing rapidly wherever that bird goes. It seems to know that its nocturnal habits render it safe from that bird's voracious maw, which likes nothing better than soft insects for its young, along with the fruit and seeds which it also loves. The caterpillar, being hairy, is also safe from the bird; but the cocoons can be so easily destroyed in the winter by painting the trunks with any oily substance, that there is no excuse but absolute ignorance for the greater part of the evils these insects do. In these days of cheap horticultural papers we do not know that even this excuse is a fair one. As a further encouragement to this painting of the bark, in order to destroy insects, it may be remarked that it aids the bark in throwing off that which is useless, and thus adds to the growth and health of the trees.