Enter The Catalpa Worm Zoneby: Ron and Toni Smith
In the late 1700s, this tree was planted all over the Eastern United States with southwest Georgia, south Alabama, and south-central and southeast Mississippi being the original native ranges. The largest trees found measured 70 feet tall by 70 feet wide in Texas, and 75 feet by 75 feet in Mississippi, with a relatively short life span of 70 years. It is said the tree could grow as tall as 100 feet.
The Southern catalpa is smaller than the Northern catalpa and reaches about 30 to 40 feet tall.
The catalpa trees are the only host for the catalpa sphinx moth. This moth larva - known as the catalpa worm -- devours the leaves of the tree and often completely defoliates the tree, as shown here. Defoliated catalpas produce new leaves readily and trees usually refoliate promptly. Adult moths first appear in March to April and deposit eggs ranging from 100 to 1,000 on the underside of the leaves. Eggs hatch in 5-7 days and young larvae feed together as leaf skeletonizers until they are about three inches long. They then drop to the ground.
Trees begin to flower by age seven and are producing good seed crops by age 10. Seeds are naturally shed in late winter as the drying fruits split. Collection should occur after the fruit has dried and turned brown. If 10 pounds of air-dried fruit are collected, expect 2-3 pounds of seeds, which are about 40,000 individual seeds. Seeds can be stored under cold, dry conditions for up to two years. Sow seeds in spring under 1/8 inch soil and light mulch. Once sowed, seeds germinate within two weeks with 90% germination potential.
Harvesting the worm is best from April through November, with the largest hatches produced in late spring and again in late summer. A single tree may hold 200 worms. To gather the worms, place a tarp or piece of plastic under the tree and shake it until the worms fall off.
There are several ways to use this worm as bait. It can be cut in half, turned inside out and threaded on the hook. Another way is to cut them in pieces just like an earthworm. But the most common way seems to be cut (or bite-YUK!!!) its head off, use the end of a match and turn its body inside out. The common thread here is to release its aromatic scent and green fluorescent juices.
You could plant your own trees by ordering the seeds online or gathering seeds from trees proven to support moth larvae over many years. Seeds can be planted in a garden area and grown until they are 1-2 years old. Sow the seeds at a wide spacing and thin seedlings to greater than a six-inch spacing between stems. Once the seedlings are larger than 18 inches tall and the field is prepared, transplant them during the winter and cover the seed with coarse, organic mulch 1-2 inches thick. A slow release of nitrogen and phosphorous containing fertilizer can be added in small amounts over the top of the mulch in late spring each year. The addition of calcium and magnesium through applications of dolomite limestone can also be beneficial in highly acid soils; soil pH should be adjusted to 6.4.
You could order the frozen worm online or you could make your own as shown below. Whatever you choose, if you choose to use the Catalpa Worm to catch catfish, they have been tried and tested to be very favorable bait.
75+ Catalpa Tree-Indian Bean Tree Seeds -- $2.49
e-Bay item #2323793621
Catalpa Worms, frozen - 1 dozen - product id D5/catalpa worms -- $3.95
www.catfishworld.net (they probably sell plastic ones too)
Tying Your Own Catalpa, Obtained from American Angler, Mar/Apr 1992
Hook - Mustad #79580, #4-8
Thread - black, #6/0
Tail - Goose biot segments, black
Body - Cream or pale yellow lamb's wool
Over body - Black Chenille
Hackle - Black, stripped on one side, clipped closely on finished fly
Head - Black, #6/0
1. Wrap thread around the hook shank and stop at the bend of the hook
2. Tie in two goose baits to form a V-shaped tail
3. Remove the fibers from one side of a black hackle.
4. Attach hackle to hook above the tail with a couple of thread wraps
5. Attach chenille the length of the shank
6. Select a segment of wool with the fibers longer than the hook shank. Attach the tips of the fibers to the hook with a couple of wraps and move thread to the eye of the hook. The butts of the fibers will extend well beyond the back of the hook. Use enough wool to form the body's thickness. Bending the wool backward toward the hook's eye will shape the body. Position the wool so that it encircles the entire hook. Secure the wool to the hook at least one eye diameter behind the eye of the hook.
7. Pull the chenille over the top of the body; hold firm and secure with thread.
8. Rib the fly with black hackle.
9. Form the head with black thread.
10. Clip the hackle fibers close to the body of the fly. Place a slight bend in the shank of the hook.
Added: Thu Apr 10 2008
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009