Even if you’ve never heard of tent caterpillars, you’ve certainly already met them at least once in your life… you just didn’t know they were called tent caterpillars.
Also known as tent worms, these little animals are quite common in every region of every continent and it is important to learn how to get rid of tent caterpillars.
In this article, we’re going to tell you about the ways using which you can deal with them. Keep on reading to find it out… but first, let’s clarify what tent caterpillars are.
What Are Tent Caterpillars?
Tent caterpillars are worms in the genus Malacosoma.
Before starting your treatment, the first thing to do is to identify what tent caterpillars look like so that you do not end up with the wrong treatment, as it may add to more trouble.
So here’s what you should look for to identify tent caterpillars:
- As stated earlier, tent caterpillars are 2-2.5 inches in length, dark colored, hairy, and have white or other dark color patterns on their bodies.
- They usually hatch out of eggs during spring from a mass of 150-400 eggs.
- These caterpillars like to stick in groups until they reach maturity and form a tent-like silk nest on large trees.
- Once they grow in size, they start to vacate their next and wander off.
- After some time, these large-sized caterpillars form a cocoon and emerge as a moth to find a mate and repeat the cycle all over again.
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Why Is It Important To Get Rid Of Tent Caterpillars?
Tent caterpillars can cause great damage to the environment because they are voracious and they eat leaves.
The problem is that they can become so numerous and eat so many leaves that they can not only kill a tree but an entire forest!
It’s important, therefore, that we intervene to prevent them from proliferating. How can we do it?
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Identifying Tent Caterpillars
There are not one but four common species of tent caterpillars. Here’s how you can identify them:
1. Eastern Tent Caterpillar
These tent caterpillars are found most commonly in southern Canada and east of the Rockies. These are usually 2 inches in size and have sparse black hair with faded blue spots on each side.
They also have a white strip on the center of their backs. Their host plants are apples, cherries, shade trees, etc.
2. Western Tent Caterpillar
Western Tent Caterpillars are found in the western and northern regions of the U.S. and Canada.
These are brownish or yellowish in color and have blue and orange spots on their backs. These are most commonly found in cherry, birch, apple, roses, oak, plum, etc.
3. Fall Webworm
These are most commonly found in Mexico and North America and feed over 85 species of plants and trees. These form their next on the outer branches of trees.
These are often 1 inch long and are covered in green or yellow hair with a yellow or black strip. Also, their heads are red or black in color, making them distinctive from others.
4. Forest Tent Caterpillar
These are found in Canada and the U.S. They can be recognized by how they weave their next. Instead of a tent-like shape, they weave a silky mat.
These are 1-2 inches in length and are tan or light yellow in color. Their host plants are maple, oak, cherry, etc.
Where to Inspect & What to Look For?
While inspecting, look for plants and shrubs in your yard. Tent Caterpillars like shrubs, broadleaf plants, and fruit trees like plum, peach, apple, cherry, etc.
It is important to spot and treat them; otherwise, they may infest other plants quickly.
What should you look for exactly?
You should look for tent-like silky white webs or the caterpillar itself. You may find large or small clusters of the web depending on their species, or you may find the caterpillars feeding on leaves.
Make sure to look for them in the afternoon, as they are active during this time, and hide away during the night.
How to get rid of tent caterpillars?
When you get rid of tent worms, you need to keep in mind that you need to remove
- the worms themselves,
- their webs,
- and their eggs.
One easy way of getting rid of tent worms is getting rid of their webs one by one.
It’s not difficult to spot them: they are white webs (like thick white balls of fabric and dust) that grow along branches, usually at branch corners.
You can take a large stick and remove the webs with it. This method is good because it uses no chemicals, but sometimes it isn’t 100% effective.
The fact is that tent worms can lay eggs even outside their webs, so removing webs doesn’t solve the problem. After some time, tent worms and webs will be as numerous as they were.
So, how do you get rid of eggs?
You have two effective methods here; one uses chemicals, the other doesn’t,
You can purchase a specific chemical product to get rid of tent caterpillars. They are usually products to be sprayed on the entire tree or the entire garden, and they’ll kill all worms and eggs.
The method without chemicals is healthier for the environment, yourself, and anyone who will attend the place. However, it can be very invasive to your trees and plants.
When you spot a worm web, instead of removing the web, you need to cut the entire branch off. This way, if there are eggs along the branch, they’ll be removed.
These are your main choices. You can choose between different chemicals, but the principle remains the same: you can either kill the worm and eggs with chemicals or remove them physically (make sure you remove or burn the branches you cut off, otherwise, it’s like you’ve done nothing!).
More ways to get rid of Tent Caterpillars
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How to Prevent Tent Caterpillars?
Have a look at these preventive measures that you should take to avoid any future re-infestation:
- Keep an eye on your plants, prune any new infestations that you see, and remove the new eggs and webs immediately.
- Water your plants frequently; this will help them to regain their strength, and spraying or watering the leaves will help in washing away the new webs or eggs.
- Spray your plants with insecticide every 90 days to have a long-lasting treatment effect on the caterpillars.
Dealing with Tent Caterpillars can be annoying, but you can get rid of them in the above-mentioned ways.
But make sure to also follow the preventive measures to make sure they do not infest your trees and plants again.
What is the home remedy to kill Tent Caterpillars?
Take one quart of warm water, and two tablespoons of neem oil, put them in a spray bottle, and spray your plants with this natural insecticide to kill tent worms without harming your plants.
How long do tent caterpillar lasts if not treated?
Tent caterpillar infestation can last for 2-3 years if not treated.
In which season do you see tent caterpillars?
Tent caterpillars come out in early march or during the spring season.
Shefali Jain is a Content Editor & Writer at National Planning Cycles.
After completing her graduation in hospitality, Shefali decided to follow her passion and started writing. Shefali has been writing for two years now and contributes to our website as a skilled editor and content writer with strong research skills. Writing product and service reviews, biographies, and book reviews are some of her key areas, among many others in which she specializes.