How To Get Rid of Tent Caterpillars

Date February 28, 2023

Author TreeNewal Staff

While many insects are beneficial for trees, tent caterpillars or tent worms are not. In fact, tent caterpillars are a major nuisance and can cause some damage to trees. Eliminating tent caterpillars from your yard can prevent damage to your trees as well as remove a common eyesore.

Identify Tent Caterpillars

The first step to removing tent caterpillars is to know how to identify them. Tent caterpillars are not difficult to spot, particularly during the early spring months. One way to identify these insects is to look for nests that look like tents sandwiched in the forks of branches on a tree. The caterpillars frequently make nests in fruit, ash, oak, maple, and willow trees. The actual caterpillars are black at first, but they eventually develop flecks of blue and orange. They also have a white stripe along their backs.

Pick Off Nests and Egg Cases Manually

Image via Unsplash by bep_one

Picking off tent caterpillar nests is an effective way to prevent these pests from taking over. Use a stick to disturb and wind up the nests to dispose of them. It’s best to remove the nests while the caterpillars are still in them to ensure they do not return. Removing the nests and eggs early is beneficial to avoid an infestation of these pests. The eggs, which are black and shiny, typically hatch in spring.

Pruning a tree during mating season can also prevent an infestation, as the process will get rid of the eggs before they ever even hatch. Professionals can look for branches that are at risk for problems and prune them before a serious problem emerges.

Introduce Tent Caterpillar Predators

Introducing tent caterpillar predators is another effective way to keep these pests away. Natural enemies of tent caterpillars include wasps and birds, like blue jays, cardinals, and robins. The best part of this solution is that attracting birds is easy. Plant shrubs so birds feel protected and add a water source, like a bird bath or small pond.

Apply Pesticides

Some pesticides can control the tent caterpillar population. This solution works best when the caterpillars are young, as they can grow resistant to pesticides as they grow stronger. A professional can recommend a pesticide that will eliminate caterpillars without harming trees and other plants. Some people find that they need to repeat this process several times to completely get rid of an infestation.

Why Removing Tent Caterpillars Is Advantageous

If a tree has just a few tent caterpillars, it’s unlikely to experience long-term problems. On the other hand, a massive colony of tent caterpillars can completely rid a tree of leaves. Without leaves, a tree may become more susceptible to diseases. Mature trees are likely to survive an infestation, but young trees or those under stress are more likely to experience long-term damage.

TreeNewal is a sustainable tree care company that recommends maintenance and treatment plans for foliage. Additionally, they offer treatment and management for pest-related issues, including those linked to tent caterpillars.