EASTERN TENT CATERPILLARS
They are SOOOO ugly! The trees look SOOOOO bad with the tents surrounding the crotches and ends of branches. You can almost FEEL the caterpillars crawling all over the trees and nibbling on all the available foliage. YUK!
Every time I pass trees laden with with these tents I want to stop and prune them out. But, alas, someone would surely think I was crazy, plus I have neither the time nor energy for that. However, if I see them in MY trees...there'll be heck to pay!
There are a few ways you can deal with these guys.
- Ignore them. Keep your trees healthy and fed and chances are that they will probably survive. Amazing, but true!
- Scrape off the egg cases in the winter or very early spring (IF you can reach them) before they hatch out. You can just scrape them off with your (gloved) fingers and dump them into a bucket of soapy water, or squash them with your shoe!
- Treat them with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a bacterial insecticide that is kind to bees, other pollinators and friendly insects, but deadly for the caterpillars. Spray the leaves where they will feed, so they get a good tummy full! Remember that these guys come out to eat during the daylight hours. They will generally go back into the tents at night, and even on rainy days. The message here is to spray during the evening or early morning hours.
- Prune off the tents and put them in a plastic bag for disposal in the garbage. Again, remember to cut them out when all the caterpillars are IN the tents in the evening. It doesn't make sense to prune out the tents when they are empty!
- You can also spray the leaves with dormant oil spray, JUST as they emerge from their egg cases in the spring as they come out to eat. They will be particularly vulnerable to the oil at that time.
- Use yellow lights on your outside lighting. That will be less attractive to the moths that appear and lay eggs for next year. No reason to encourage these moths by offering a beacon in the night!