How To Kill Tent Caterpillars In Apple Trees

Eliminating Tent Worms – Tent Caterpillar Home Remedy Solutions

Nikki Tilley, author of The Bulb-o-licious, contributed to this article. Malacosoma americanum (tent worms) are a common sight in the garden, although they pose little damage to the health of the gardener or his or her family. Getting rid of tent caterpillars, on the other hand, is occasionally essential. We can look into ways to avoid tent worms and, if required, how to eliminate tent worms from your home.

About Tent Worms

Tent caterpillars are commonly mistaken with autumn webworms, although they are very distinct creatures. Tent worms are most active in the early spring, whereas webworms are most active in the late summer and early fall. Tent worms build their tent-like nests in the forks of branches, whilst webworms build their web-like nests at the extremities of branch forks. Fall webworms construct nests that include foliage or leaves as well as their own bodies. Tent caterpillars, on the other hand, do not.

They will, however, build their nests in ash, willow, and maple trees as well as other species.

Large colonies, on the other hand, can cause severe defoliation of trees because they feed on the leaves.

Tent caterpillars may also graze on neighboring plants, according to the USDA.

Tent Caterpillar RemovalTent Caterpillar Home Remedy

It is frequently possible to pluck out the tent caterpillar nests or egg cases by hand when tent caterpillar removal is required. When the leaves fall off the trees in the fall, egg cases are plainly seen. Larger nests may be removed by looping them around a stick, or they can be pruned out and disposed of in the trash. The optimum time to remove tent caterpillars from their nests is in the early morning or late evening, when they are most likely to still be in the nest. The introduction of natural enemies, such as different species of parasitic wasps, can also aid in the reduction of tent worm populations.

How to Kill Tent Worms

When it comes to getting rid of tent caterpillars, sometimes the only option is to kill them. While tiny infestations may be controlled by dumping the nests into soapy water, contact pesticides are the most effective method for controlling bigger populations. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is the most effective of the bacteria types. Because this is a selective pesticide, it only kills tent caterpillars while staying safe for use around other animals.

Directly spray the foliage and tent worm nests with the product. Following these simple techniques will make getting rid of tent caterpillars a piece of cake. The beauty of your trees will be restored in a short period of time. The information in this page was last updated on

Tent Caterpillars – How do I get rid of tent caterpillars?

Wizzie Brown contributed to this article. Tent caterpillars attack a variety of broadleaf trees and shrubs, causing unattractive webs, or tents, to appear on the leaves. When their populations reach a critical mass, the caterpillars can defoliate trees, causing them to develop more slowly. They prey on ornamental and fruit trees, among other things. Early and correct identification of tent caterpillars, knowing their life cycle, and the use of suitable cultural or chemical management strategies are all essential for their eradication from the environment.

The eastern tent caterpillar, Malacosoma americanum, is the most troublesome of the four.

Life Cycle

Female moths lay their egg masses on tree trunks or tiny twigs throughout the late spring to early summer period (Fig. 1). The females of all Texas species, with the exception of the Sonoran tent caterpillar, utilize spumaline, a sticky, foamy substance, to “glue” the eggs to the bark or twigs of trees and shrubs. The spumaline also functions as a protective shell surrounding the egg mass, providing a firm, durable surface. During the majority of the summer, fall, and winter, egg masses linger on the branches of the trees.

  • Eastern and western tent caterpillars begin feeding on these fresh leaves within a few days of their appearance.
  • In most cases, the web is situated in the crotch of tiny limbs (Fig.
  • Because the larvae wander away from their tents to feed on leaves, harm can occur even if the web is located a long distance away from the tents.
  • These enormous, noticeable webs are created by the eastern and western tent caterpillars.
  • The larvae molt, or lose their skin, multiple times throughout their development.
  • The color pattern can also alter from instar to instar depending on the species.
  • 3).
  • Between feedings, dozens of caterpillars may assemble on these mats to wait for their next meal.
  • Protected areas like as the web, under the bark, among dead plant material on the ground, within a curled leaf, or under the eaves of homes are all common locations for spiders to hide.
  • Generally speaking, cocoons are loosely made of silk with a white or yellowish crystalline component dispersed throughout the whole thing.
  • Tent caterpillars in their adult form are brown and yellowish moths with two diagonal patterns on the front wings of their bodies (Fig.

4). Their wingspans are around 1 inch in length. They are drawn to lights, like do other moths. A single generation of tent caterpillars occurs once a year in all species. Adults only survive for a few days, during which time they mate, lay eggs, and do not consume any food.


Tent caterpillars in its infancy are brightly colored and grow to be approximately 134 inches long when fully grown. The only lengthy hairs on their body are found around the sides and on the back. Individual species may be distinguished by the colors and patterns on their larvae. If you come across tents with larvae that do not fit the descriptions in Table 1, it is most likely that they are autumn webworm tents. Fall webworms may construct tents throughout the late summer and fall and can have numerous generations per year, depending on the species.


The degree of defoliation, unattractive webs, and nuisance caused by the caterpillars should be taken into consideration when developing a management strategy. It is possible that you may need to utilize a combination of cultural and chemical procedures to achieve the optimum results. Control over one’s culture. During winter pruning, look for egg masses, which show as swellings on tiny, naked branches and are a sign of infestation. When trees are pruned, the tent caterpillar eggs are frequently removed before they develop.

  • When you discover spider webs on twigs in the spring, prune them as soon as you notice them.
  • It is not suggested to burn the web or caterpillars since it is quite dangerous.
  • Remove the dead caterpillars from the ground and dispose of them.
  • Beneficial insects can help to lower the number of tent caterpillars.
  • Trichogramma species prey on the eggs of tent caterpillars.
  • Control through chemical means.
  • The use of insecticide is pointless if the tent caterpillars have been allowed to feed and develop to completion.

Tents are weather-resistant and will remain in the tree for an extended period of time until they are removed.

Early morning or late evening applications are recommended in order to concentrate the spray on the tents when the caterpillars cluster.

The species that may be sprayed with these oils will be listed on the label of the product.

Some organically generated goods contain active substances such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)varietykurstaki, spinosad, or insecticidal soap, which are all derived from bacteria.

In order for the Bt kurstaki and spinosad to be taken up and consumed by the caterpillars, spray the plant well before applying the substance to the leaves.

Contact-kill insecticides such as insecticidal soap must be applied directly to the caterpillars in order for them to be killed.

Some of these formulations operate when they come into direct contact with the pest, while others may have an oil-based component that is comparable to horticultural (petroleum-based) oils in their composition.

There are several long-lasting, synthetic pesticide solutions available that give quicker and longer-lasting control than most plant-derived insecticides while also working on all phases of the caterpillar’s life cycle.

Bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, esfenvalerate, fluvalinate, permethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, indoxacarb, acephate, and carbaryl are all active chemicals to search for in a pesticide formulation.

Pesticide users are accountable for the impact pesticides have on their own plants or home goods, as well as any difficulties that may arise as a result of pesticide drift from their own properties to the properties or plants of their neighbors.

Also prone to change are the regulations governing the use of insecticides and pesticides. Always read and carefully follow the instructions on the product label for the most dependable instructions.


The author would like to express his gratitude to Bart Drees, Glen Moore, and Kim Schofield for their contributions to the review of this article. Bart Drees provided all of the photographs. Download a printer-friendly version of this publication by clicking on the following link: Caterpillars of the Tent »See more details about Gardening and Landscaping» Do you have a question – or do you require the assistance of an expert? Make contact with the appropriate county office.

How To Get Rid Of Tent Caterpillars

This post may contain affiliate links; please see my full disclosure policy for more information. Because I am an Amazon Associate, I receive money when people make eligible purchases. You’ve come to this location because tent caterpillars are devouring your trees, correct? No surprise that caterpillars are a major issue for trees, and especially fruit trees, in the United States. A huge nest of tent caterpillars may quickly defoliate your trees, but don’t worry, I have a really simple method for killing the caterpillars in your trees that takes just ONE simple thing that you probably already have in your house right now.

  1. Healthy trees will simply regrow a new set of leaves when they are damaged.
  2. However, if your trees are young, the stress of losing their leaves might cause them to develop more slowly or, in the worst case scenario, cause them to die.
  3. We had a significant infestation of tent caterpillars the first year they started to produce properly, which was really frustrating.
  4. That year, we were unable to harvest our apple crop, and I vowed to myself that this would never happen again.

To control a pest in your garden you need to understand its life-cycle.

Tent caterpillars can be found in all three of the following kinds, depending on your geographic location. Despite the fact that they seem different from one another, they both cause the same sort of damage to your trees. Contrary to the fall webworm, which may be spotted in trees throughout the late summer and early fall, these are not the same thing.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

In color, the Eastern Tent Caterpillars are mostly black, with a white stripe running down the middle of their back and a row of bright blue dots on either side of their body. Cherry, apple, and crabapple trees are among their favorite food sources, although they will also consume other types of trees such as shade trees.

Western Tent Caterpillars

The Western Tent Caterpillar is a yellowish-brown caterpillar with a series of blue and orange dots running down its back.

They eat fruit from trees such as cherry, apple, plum, willow, birch, poplar, and oak.

Forest Tent Caterpillars

The Forest Tent Caterpillar has a similar appearance to the Eastern Tent Caterpillar in terms of coloration. They are black with white keyhole-shaped markings running down the rear of their bodies. Unlike other tent caterpillars, which build nests in the forks of trees, these caterpillars form a silk mat along the surface of the branches they feed on. Tent caterpillars are one of the most gregarious forms of caterpillars, and they are members of the moth family Lasiocampidae. The eastern tent caterpillar is the most common variation seen in our region, and it is the most common variety in the world.

  1. These eggs develop swiftly, and by three weeks, the caterpillars will have fully developed into butterflies.
  2. Their hatching is timed to coincide with the regrowth of the trees’ leaves.
  3. These are initially extremely little, but as the caterpillars develop in size, they become bigger.
  4. Look very closely at the forks of the tree branches, since this is where they prefer to make their nests.
  5. Typically, this occurs soon before sunrise, throughout the middle of the day, and shortly after sunset.
  6. They then return to their nest once they have done feasting.
  7. In the final stage of the caterpillar’s existence, they separate from one another in order to select a suitable location for forming their individual cocoon.
  8. They are nocturnal, and you have most certainly seen these medium-sized brown moths fluttering around in the dark throughout the night.
  9. Because you now understand the tent caterpillar’s life cycle, it will be much easier to maintain control.
See also:  What To Do With A Tent At A Picnic For Fun

How To Kill Tent Caterpillars In Your Trees

Tent caterpillar nests are frequently destroyed by burning them with a tiny propane torch, which is highly effective. This is the method I learnt as a child, and I’ve witnessed many others use it to eliminate caterpillar nests. However, there are several drawbacks to this approach.

  1. Caution should be exercised while burning caterpillar nests since it may cause harm to your tree and leave huge, unsightly black patches behind. This is something I’ve done in the past, and it is quite unsightly! It is possible to get around this by cutting the branch after it has been burnt. However, this causes further harm to the tree, and what if your nest is located at a high point in the tree or on a huge branch? You really don’t want to inflict any serious damage to your trees, do you? Indeed, isn’t that what you’re attempting to protect them from in the first place
  2. When the weather is windy, it might also be difficult to burn the nest with a torch since little torches are readily blown out of their holders. If the nest is located at a high point in your tree, going up to it or using a ladder is not the safest option when using a torch

So the really easy way that we came up with for killing tent caterpillars is simplyvegetable oil!

It’s really that straightforward! The understanding of the caterpillar’s life cycle is essential to make this work. You must wait until all of the caterpillars are in the nest at the same time before spraying the nest well with vegetable oil. Because insects breathe via their skin, this method is effective. When they are covered with oil, they are unable to breathe and die within minutes. However, because I’m a frugal person, I keep the wasted oil from our deep fryer, which I then use in this recipe.

I really like the heavy-duty spray bottles that I’ve been using.

I frequently use them not just to make an oil spray for caterpillars, but also to apply combinations of tea tree oil or liquid fertilizers as a foliar spray on the leaves of plants.

The Benefits Of Using Vegetable Oil

  1. It kills the caterpillars swiftly and does not leave any unsightly black patches on the leaves of your plants. If left to its own devices, the nest will disintegrate and collapse in a short period of time. It is also lot simpler to spray the oil on the nest that is higher up in your tree than it is to attempt to burn them with a torch.

Would you like to see just how well this works?

Watch my video to see how simple it is to use this approach of controlling caterpillars in my fruit trees in your own yard. Isn’t it great when you can find simple and safe techniques to keep pests under control in your garden?

Other Ways To Control Tent Caterpillars

While spraying the nests with vegetable oil is my preferred method of controlling these pests, it is no longer effective once they have outgrown the communal nest. However, there are still simple ways to get rid of tent caterpillars on your trees and in your yard. Read on for more information.

How To Get Rid Of Tent Caterpillars With Dish Soap

Another quick and simple method for getting rid of caterpillars is to spray them with dish detergent. The key to making a dish soap spray effective is to avoid allowing the soap to froth excessively. Fill the spray container almost to the brim with water, then add 1-2 teaspoons of dish soap per gallon of water and shake well. After that, finish topping off the water supply. Give the sprayer a slight shake to ensure that all of the soap is included. This helps to keep the soap suspended in the water rather than having it float to the surface as bubbles.

Use BTK Spray

The best alternative if your trees are being devoured by tent caterpillars but you can’t discover a nest to remove is to use an organic BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray, which is safe and effective. This naturally occurring bacterium is only harmful to caterpillars, and it is completely safe to use around birds and bees. Simply spray BTK on the leaves of your trees, and the caterpillars will be killed as a result of eating the poison.

Download a tip sheet to help you remember how to spot tent caterpillars in your garden and control them safely!

Do you have a cucumber beetle infestation in your yard or garden? See how I got rid of them in a quick and simple manner! A homeschooling parent of six children, Kim Mills lives on an urban farmstead in the province of Ontario, Canada. She likes blogging at Homestead Acres, where she shares money-saving strategies as well as information on how to cultivate and store your own food.

How to Get Rid of Tent Caterpillars

Tent caterpillars are the larvae of various moth and butterfly species (mentioned below), which are referred to as a group by their common name. These caterpillars, which are found throughout most of the United States and Canada, reproduce quickly and have the ability to defoliate a significant number of deciduous trees and shrubs in a short period of time. These pests are frequently seen on wayside trees and in abandoned orchards. Aside from defoliation, the larvae build big unattractive webs, or tents, in the crotches of tree limbs, which are difficult to remove.

Despite the fact that tent damage is ugly, infestations of insects seldom endanger the life of trees.


The Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) is a species of caterpillar that may be found east of the Rocky Mountains and north into southern Canada. In their full developed state, caterpillars are sparsely hairy and black in appearance, with a row of pale blue markings on either side of their bodies. They may be distinguished by a white stripe running down the middle of their backs, which helps to identify them. Adults are reddish brown moths that are 1-1/2 inches in length and have two white stripes running diagonally across each forewing.

  1. The Western Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum) is a pest that may be found in the northern and western regions of the United States as well as in adjacent Canadian territory.
  2. Approximately 1-1/2 inches in length, adult moths are orange-brown in color with two faint yellow lines on the underside of the wings.
  3. Malocsoma disstria is a forest tent caterpillar that may be found across the United States and Canada anywhere hardwoods can be found in the forest.
  4. americanum are similar in appearance to the adult, but instead of a solid line running down their back, they have a series of keyhole-shaped white dots.
  5. Wild cherry, aspen, maple, oak, and hawthorn are among the plants that serve as hosts.
  6. Webworms are known to feed on over 85 different types of trees and are found across North America and Mexico.
  7. One-inch-long caterpillars are coated with long hairs and range in color from yellow to green, with a black stripe along the back and a yellow stripe on each side of the body.

The color of their heads is either red or black. Adult moths (1 inch in length) are pure white in color with black markings on the wings, which are characteristic of the species.

Life Cycle

The egg stage is where the majority of tent caterpillar species overwinter. Egg masses ranging in color from dark brown to gray and holding 150 to 400 eggs are adhered to the short twigs of trees and bushes. Hatching takes occur around the time when leaf buds begin to open, which is normally in the early spring months. They are social creatures who quickly build silken tents, which they use as a haven during the early morning and evening hours, as well as during rainy spells, to protect themselves from the elements.

The larvae reach full maturity around six weeks after hatching and five instars following that time period (up to 2 inches long, sparsely hairy).

Adult moths emerge around two weeks later and deposit the overwintering eggs within a short period of time.

Note: When larvae begin to travel to sheltered regions in order to pupate, they can become a nuisance.

How to Control

  1. Prevent the larvae from starting to eat by scraping off and discarding overwintering egg masses and tearing the protective tents out by hand before they start to feed. With this method, you may restrict caterpillar mobility and deny them access to eating locations. Sticky Tree Bands or Tree Tanglefoot Pest Barrier are two options for preventing pest infestations. The naturally occurring soil-dwelling bacteriumBacillus thuringiensis, often known as Bt-kurstaki, is highly powerful against all species of inch worms. At the first indication of damage, use a spray that is simple to apply to knock out the worms and safeguard the foliage. It is safe to use BTKsprays near dogs and children since they do not damage honey bees or birds
  2. Spinosad, a biological substance developed from fermentation, is also extremely useful in a variety of applications. In fact, it’s the active ingredient in Monterey Garden Insect Spray, a product that has been classified as organic by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program and listed for organic use by the Organic Materials Review Institute
  3. AzaMaxcontains azadirachtin, which is the key insecticidal ingredient found in neem oil. This very powerful spray interferes with the growth and development of nuisance insects while also acting as a repellant and anti-feedant. In addition to being non-toxic to honey bees and many other helpful insects, it should only be used as a last resort for dealing with bug infestations. Natural pesticides, which are derived from plants that contain insecticidal qualities, have less adverse side effects than synthetic chemicals and degrade more quickly in the environment.

Note: Although more than 80 species of predators and parasites have been identified in the United States, none of them are now available for purchase on the market. During the majority of the year, these insects serve a crucial role in keeping pest populations under control. As a result, extreme caution must be exercised while spraying pesticides in order to avoid causing harm to these important species.

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How to Get Rid of Eastern Tent Caterpillars

It’s possible that you’re dealing with a widespread insect found across North America: the tent caterpillar, if you detect web-like formations between branches of your trees, including your decorative and fruit trees. Rather from being pests, these pests are really the larvae of several different varieties of moths that establish their homes in your trees and eat on the leaves of plants. They are appropriately called for the prominent silk tents that they construct in the branches of their host trees throughout the course of their life cycle.

Tent caterpillars may be extremely destructive to plants, so understanding how to get rid of them and using safe management measures can help you preserve your plants from potentially devastating infestations.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Eastern tent caterpillars may be found in abundance throughout the eastern United States and the Rocky Mountains. Infestations of this species can inflict considerable harm to the look of ornamental trees, and their populations fluctuate from year to year. Soon after hatching, the caterpillars crawl up into the bends of trees where they construct webs to keep themselves warm. These parasites can be found in a range of common host trees. Eastern tent caterpillars have a hairy black body with yellow stripes and oval-shaped blue spots down the sides, and they are a kind of moth.

They are sometimes confused with gypsy moths, which have a similar appearance to eastern tent caterpillars but lack one distinct feature: a white stripe that runs down the rear of the caterpillars’ bodies. Gypsy moths, on the other hand, do not have this stripe.

Western Tent Caterpillars

West-coast tent caterpillars are more frequent in the Northwest, although western tent caterpillars may also be found on particular host trees in the southern Rocky Mountains, where they are known as forest tent caterpillars. The two are roughly the same size, but they differ in a number of significant ways. The tent caterpillars of the western hemisphere are orange with black patterns that run down their backs. As soon as their eggs hatch in the spring, their “tents” begin to emerge. Trees are beginning to blossom at this time, and these pests begin feasting on new growth as soon as they emerge from their eggs.

Forest Tent Caterpillars

Caterpillars that live in forest tents are distinctive in appearance. It is easy to distinguish them by their blue hue with black specks and the white marks in the shape of feet in the center of their backs, which are in the middle of their backs. Similarly to spider webs, these are silken mats that are placed between tree branches, and they are not regarded to be “tents.” Some examples of host plants are as follows:

Other Insects That Are Mistaken for Tent Caterpillars

There are several different sorts of moths and insects that are often mistaken for tent caterpillars, including lacewings and aphids. They have a variety of consequences for your property.

Gypsy Moths

Gypsy moth caterpillars are distinct from tent caterpillars, which implies that gypsy moth caterpillar control methods will differ slightly from tent caterpillar control methods. Gypsy moths don’t come in the spring, but rather later in the year, when the weather warms up. An entirely new generation arises each year, and they harm a wide variety of ornamental shrubs, conifers, and trees. They can also be seen on fruit trees and shrubs.

Fall Webworms

If you hear someone mention tent worms, it’s possible that they’re referring about autumn webworms instead. Although they are not tent caterpillars, the terms “tent caterpillar” and “tent caterpillar” are sometimes used interchangeably. Fall webworms are distinguished from eastern tent caterpillars by their appearance and behavior. They are creamy-white, hairy, and speckled with black spots, but eastern tent caterpillars are not. Their webs are spun over the tops of branches and leaves, and they also eat within their webs, as opposed to tent caterpillars, which only utilize their tents for protection.

Tent Caterpillar Lifecycle and Control

Knowing the pest’s lifecycle is essential when dealing with tent caterpillars or removing a caterpillar infestation from your property. During the early spring, eastern tent caterpillars make their initial appearance and finish their lifecycle by the end of the summer. This implies that host trees have more time to produce new foliage and are less likely to perish as a result of an infestation. They can, however, do damage to the beauty and health of a tree. During the months of January through March, eastern tent caterpillars deposit their eggs in host trees.

  • Adult moths begin producing new batches of eggs in the summer and continue to do so through the fall and into the early winter months.
  • Safer®Brand Caterpillar eggs are killed by BioNEEM®, a neem oil concentration that is used to kill the eggs of a range of insect pests, including caterpillars.
  • It is azadirachtin that is found in BioNEEM®, which is a naturally occurring Insect Growth Regulator that has been isolated from the neem seed.
  • This product is a means of removing caterpillar infestations from a structure.

Caterpillar Killer includes Bacillus thuringiensisvar.kurstaki, a naturally occurring chemical that is non-toxic to humans, birds, and other wildlife. Caterpillars, on the other hand, are killed within a few days of exposure. This product is particularly well suited for:

  • Forest tent caterpillar control, Western tent caterpillar control, Eastern tent caterpillar control, Fall webworm control, Gypsy moth control are all examples of pest control. Caterpillar control in a green step

Pruning and the introduction of natural predators are two more techniques of removing tent caterpillars from a structure. The natural enemies of caterpillars include birds and wasps, among others. Predators pluck these bugs out of trees and consume them because they are poisonous. As an alternative, if the caterpillars’ tents are within reach, you might consider cutting off the afflicted branches and burning them to get rid of tent caterpillars completely.

How to Get Rid of Spring Webworms or Eastern Tent Caterpillars

Tree leaves aren’t the only things that burst forth from their shells in the springtime. Pesky insects come to life in the spring after spending the winter hibernating in a safe place. Certainly, tent caterpillars, whose thick, spun webs block out the light from a tree’s blossom, are an example of this phenomenon. Tent caterpillars, on the other hand, are rather easy to get rid of, whether you use a pesticide or a simple home treatment.

Your Guide to Getting Rid of Spring Webworms in Trees

These furry little insects, sometimes known as tent worms or Eastern tent caterpillars, are known for eating tree leaves and weaving huge, silky webs around the limbs of trees. The best time to see them is in the spring, when they may be seen on black cherry, apple, or crabapple trees. They’ll sometimes go for other types of fruit trees as well.

Are tent caterpillars harmful to trees?

When it comes to healthy, mature trees, tent caterpillars are typically not a big hazard. They do take away some of the leaves from the trees and spin some unsightly webs, but that is the extent of their harm to the trees. Only two exceptions exist: black cherry trees, which are particularly prone to tent caterpillars, and young trees, which are extremely vulnerable to tent caterpillars. If you notice caterpillars or their spider-like webs on trees, treat them as soon as possible.

How to Get Rid of Tree Worms

It is really simple to get rid of tent caterpillars. Follow the instructions outlined below to bid these pesky creatures goodnight!

  1. Remove the spider webs by hand, and then use dish soap to destroy the tent worms. If you only have a few of tents, you may simply remove the webs off of the branches with your hands. Choose a time of day when the caterpillars are still within their webs, such as early morning or late evening. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can wrap the webs around a broomstick. Once they are done, place them in a bucket filled with water and dish soap. Take things seriously. When dealing with enormous infestations that are impossible to eradicate by hand, a pesticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis, sometimes known as “Bt,” is extremely successful. Carefully read and follow the packaging directions. Alternatively, contact your local arborist and ask them to handle it. In the winter, you should get rid of caterpillar eggs. Look for eggs on tree branches in the winter to see if the caterpillars have laid any. The eggs will look like glossy, reddish-brown bulbs and will be visible through the winter. You can try scraping them off, and if that doesn’t work, you can trim the branches off the tree.

Need help ridding your trees of tent worms? Click for a free consultation with your local arborist!

*Please complete all of the essential information.

Identify and Control Tent Caterpillars

In the spring, several different varieties of caterpillars weave tentlike webs in the branches of trees and shrubs. Tent caterpillars are a kind of caterpillars that spin ugly webs and eat plant leaves, thus the name. The protective webs expand in tandem with the number of hungry larvae. They may prefer small fruit trees such as cherries and crabapples, but they may attack a wide variety of other trees and ornamental shrubs, depending on the species in question. Plants that have been defoliated are weaker and more prone to attack by various insect pests and diseases.

  • Their black bodies are covered with fine, reddish hairs.
  • From a distance, other species appear to be similar, but their markings differ.
  • Their eggs overwinter in lustrous, black egg masses that ring twigs and are protected from the elements.
  • The bugs congregate outside the tents to feast on the food.
  • Management: Tent caterpillar control is most effective when applied early in the spring when caterpillars and webs are tiny.

If you have a huge tree that is more than 10 feet tall, you should consider hiring a professional. GardenTech ® brand provides very efficient solutions for smaller trees and shrubs that kill tent caterpillars on contact and continue to protect for up to three months:

  • For treating shrubs and small trees completely, such as to guard them against developing caterpillars and to treat active infestations, Sevin ®Insect Killer Concentrateis an excellent choice. Use of the chemical in conjunction with a pump-style sprayer results in extensive coverage and direct treatment of webs and their surrounding regions. Make sure to completely cover all plant surfaces, giving particular care to forks where branches come together. Sevin ®Insect Killer Ready to Spray makes it easier to treat tent caterpillars before and after their tents form, saving you time and money. The tool fits to a standard garden hose and automatically measures and mixes the solution as you spray. Cover all plant surfaces completely with the product, and treat tents immediately. Caterpillars come into touch with the spray as they enter and exit the feeding chamber.

Prevent overwintering egg masses from forming on trees and shrubs by pruning them before they hatch. Webs should be removed on chilly or wet days, when caterpillars are more likely to be hiding within. Reading product labels and following the directions exactly are essential, especially when it comes to pre-harvest intervals for fruits and other culinary crops. GardenTech is a trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc., which is owned by Gulfstream Home and Garden. Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.


  • “Eastern Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)” by Ryan Hodnett is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, and “Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth (Malacosoma americana)” by Aaron Carlson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. “Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)” by Whitney Cranshaw at Colorado State University ( is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • “Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)” by Whitney Cranshaw at Colorado State University ( is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  • “Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)” by Whitney Cranshaw at Colorado
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How to Identify and Control Tent Caterpillars

No other insect strikes horror into my heart quite like a squirming, crawling mass of tent caterpillars. Call me theatrical, but there isn’t another bug that can do that to me. It’s not because of the harm they inflict to plants, but rather because their nests appear like something out of a horror film, which is understandable. Isn’t it true that a single caterpillar is kind of adorable? Some of them even have marks that resemble a smiley face on their faces. But when you’re in a bunch. yuck!

  1. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of our links, we may receive a commission.
  2. A significant infestation can result in swarms of them creeping down the road and sidewalks at the same time.
  3. ‘Ugh!’ I say again.
  4. In spite of the fact that I am totally disgusted by them – surprise!
  5. I’m also going to make a case for why you should, at the very least, leave them alone in this situation.

What Are Tent Caterpillars?

The phrase “tent caterpillar” refers to the larvae of all species of moths belonging to the genus Malacosoma, which includes all forms of tent caterpillars. There are around 26 species worldwide, with six of those found in the United States. One thing that they all have in common is that during the spring, the caterpillars build big communal nests on trees out of silken threads, which are then consumed by the birds. Some make a type of “home base” that they leave and return to throughout the day, and others build tents continually as they walk around the tree’s circumference at night.

  • californicum, also known as the Western tent caterpillar, M.
  • disstria, also known as the forest tent caterpillar, are the most prevalent in the United States.
  • californicum is a species of fungus that may be found in the western United States, southwestern Canada, and northern Mexico.
  • The majority of the time, they have dark blue or black heads, and their bodies are green, black, orange, or blue, or a combination of these hues, with fine hairs (setae) covering their bodies in general.
  • They can grow to be up to two inches in length.
  • M.
  • The larvae are black with a white dorsal stripe and blue specks on the back, and they are coated in small reddish hairs on the rest of their bodies.

Fruit trees such as cherry, peach, and plum, as well as witch hazel and hardwoods such as ash, birch, hawthorn, maple, oak, and willow, are among the trees that these caterpillars like.

disstriais may be found all throughout the continental United States and southern Canada.

They have delicate, light hairs covering their bodies.

In contrast to the other two species listed above, this species does not establish a home base tent that it uses to keep close to.

They may also tie up leaves with silk to construct small protected pods, which they may then eat.

tigris), which may be found in the western United States, and the Southwest tent caterpillar (M.

Tent caterpillars are all fuzzy rather than smooth, and they do not have the big tufts of hair at either end of their bodies as some other caterpillars do.

Because they all look different and there isn’t a defining physical characteristic that distinguishes them from other caterpillars, it’s easiest to identify tent caterpillars in general by the characteristic tents they make and the damage they cause to trees, rather than by their specific appearance or physical characteristics.

  1. In the spring, the nests are tiny and compact to begin with.
  2. They are likewise creamy white in the beginning of the season, but as they full with feces, their color progressively darkens to a brown shade.
  3. As they crawl up the branches of the trees, these parasites consume a lot of vegetation, which they chew up as they go.
  4. The caterpillars, as they travel around the tree, leave a silken string in their wake, which is quite interesting to observe.
  5. However, if the caterpillar descends a branch that does not have much food on it, the caterpillar will cut the thread, preventing subsequent caterpillars from wasting their time searching for food there.
  6. They’re true team players, you know!
  7. Webworms (Hyphantria cunea) are sometimes lumped together with tent caterpillars, however they are two completely separate insects.
  8. In addition, webworms are more active in the summer and fall than they are in the spring.

Lymantria dispar dispar is the gypsy moth. These areLymantria dispar dispar, which is a distinct species of moth from a different genus entirely.

Biology and Life Cycle

This pest reproduces just once a year, and it has only one generation every year (thank goodness). The eggs are placed in large clusters around branches throughout the summer months and are held in place by a sticky material that the birds produce called spumaline. The masses have a brown tinge to them, and the eggs are left in place on the tree so that they can overwinter there. The caterpillars emerge from their eggs in the spring and cluster on a tree to build a communal nest, where they spend the evenings and inclement weather before emerging to feast on the foliage.

As the caterpillars increase in size, they begin to munch on the leaves of trees, eventually defoliating the entire tree when in big enough numbers.

The moths emerge from their cocoons a few weeks after they have formed them in order to mate.

Adult moths do not consume any food at all.

Organic Control Methods

Many specialists now advise simply letting these wigglers alone, as they have in the past. An infestation will not harm a tree unless the tree is already stressed by disease or other environmental stresses such as drought, in which case it will die. Even if the caterpillars fully defoliate a tree, the tree should be able to recover once the pests have fled the scene. Furthermore, these insects are a vital component of the natural ecosystem, and they are preyed upon by a variety of natural predators.

  1. Having said that, there are a few reasons why you’ll want to get rid of these pesky insects.
  2. This is due to the fact that defoliation might cause the tree’s development or productivity to be stunted for the duration of the growing season.
  3. They are also the pests that you will most likely want to control or eradicate because they prey on trees that are economically valuable.
  4. Second, trees that are already stressed due to drought, disease, or other pests may not be able to endure an infestation of the pests mentioned above.
  5. If you have horses, you have still another incentive to bring an infestation under control.
  6. They subsequently spread throughout their bodies, puncturing the intestinal wall and transporting inside bacteria to areas where it shouldn’t be.
  7. Horses that are not pregnant might also ingest the insects and have eye or heart problems as a result.

If you, your kid, or your pet ingests the insects, keep in mind that the fine hairs on their bodies have been observed to irritate the skin of certain individuals.

Finally, if they are simply giving you the heebie-jeebies, you may choose to have them taken away.

Their frass, commonly known as excrement, is a valuable source of fertilizer.

After being defoliated, the majority of trees grow back with more leaves than they had before.

So, despite the fact that I feel goosebumps just thinking about them, I choose to allow them to be in my yard — a purposeful tactic known as “tolerance” in scientific circles.

Final point: if you don’t find the nests until the beginning of summer, there is no need to destroy them in order to attempt and manage the pest population.

The caterpillars are already fully adult at that stage, and they will be going on in the near future. However, if you do not like the appearance of the spider webs, you are welcome to brush them away.

Physical Control

The most effective way to get a handle on these pests is to physically remove them from your home. There are a variety of approaches that may be used to accomplish this. Trim away the branches that are most highly infected, as long as the nest is not in a major branch or on a portion of the tree’s trunk. Additionally, you may use a broom to sweep out the nests and place them on a sheet before bagging and disposing of the bugs. Performing the sweeping and pruning at night, early in the morning, or after a rainfall will ensure that you are eliminating all of the caterpillars that are resting or seeking shelter, rather than simply the caterpillar nest itself.

Their flames will spread throughout the tree as they separate themselves from the trunk and become blazing flags flying in the breeze.

During the winter, prune out or remove any egg masses that have formed by scraping them off with a knife.

Biological Control

A large number of natural enemies attack these caterpillars. Put them to work for you to assist you in keeping an infestation under control. Apart from attracting bird visitors, you may also attract ladybugs, tachinid flies, and parasitic wasps to your garden by planting them in the Hyposter, Cotesia, and Bracongenera, as well as the Edovum puttleri. Spiders, stink bugs, army bugs, paper wasps, assassin bugs, and lacewings are some of the predators that prey on these insects. Predatory insects are available for purchase and introduction into your garden if you do not already have a large number of them.

Bacillus thuringiensiskurstaki (Btk) is efficient against little caterpillars under an inch in length, but it becomes less effective as the caterpillars grow in size.

Organic Pesticides

Preventing a caterpillar infestation from forming in the first place can be accomplished by spraying the egg masses with a dormant oil during the winter months. The eggs will be smothered as a result of this. Because the timing of application and the suggested amount vary depending on the plant, it is important to precisely follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Spinosad is a very powerful pesticide that has the extra virtue of not being toxic to the vast majority of beneficial insects on the planet.

Monterey Garden Insect Spray is a product manufactured by Monterey Garden Insect Spray.

For the last organic pesticide, insecticidal soap can be effective, but it must come into direct contact with the larvae in order to be effective.

Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the exact type of tree you are spraying. Bonide Insecticidal Soap is a natural insecticide. In 12- and 32-ounce containers, Bonide offers a nice ready-to-use choice that can be purchased through Arbico Organics for a reasonable price.

Chemical Pesticide Control

We do not advocate using chemical pesticides to manage tent caterpillars since they are not a pest that normally causes catastrophic losses and because there are no insecticides that are especially aimed at tent caterpillars available. It is possible that doing so would harm the other beneficial insects in your garden, which will have long-term implications for the environment. You should also use great caution when eradicating any native insect populations, since doing so may have unforeseen and long-term consequences for the environment.

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