Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show: Eastern tent caterpillars
The Eastern Tent Caterpillar has been seen in full “tent” or web if you prefer throughout much of the eastern United States.
The map above is only approximate because we’re seeing them further north in Minnesota than this map shows.
ooooo, these guys send shivers down my spine! YUK. The larvae munches on your shrubs and trees. MOST of the time they will not kill your plant. Knock these creepy crawlies off in the morning before they wake up to venture out and feed OR after they get “home” and then crush them!
Although they are found on a variety of hardwood trees, eastern tent caterpillars are really fond of fruit trees, including apple, chokecherry, crabapple, plum, and cherry. Healthy, well-established trees can tolerate some feeding. It’s really just a cosmetic issue. However, young trees, as well as unhealthy, stressed trees, are more susceptible to feeding damage and should be protected.
Consider using products that have a low impact on the environment, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, spinosad, and insecticidal soap. Bt is a particularly good product if the tree is flowering since it will not harm visiting honey bees. If you use insecticidal soap, the product needs to directly contact the insects. There is no residual activity so you may need to repeat the treatment. Don’t bother to treat if the caterpillars have reached over an inch long, that means they’ll be finished feeding soon anyway and will leave on their own.