Tent Caterpillar Saga, Ch. 4: Aw, c’mon already.

a note from Dolly

*sigh*  And so it begins all over again.

The tent caterpillars that survived pupation are beginning to hatch, and the resulting light brown moths are showing up everywhere.  I mean, everywhere.  They look like this:



If yours are anything like mine, you might find them hanging around in groups on the exterior of a sunny window.  As far as moth I.Q. goes, theirs seems to be pretty low, which makes them easy targets to swat.  (I’m finding tent caterpillars in general to be not very bright.)  They do leave a gross yellow smear after you swat them, though, so keep the Windex handy.

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Tent Caterpillar Follow-up: Search and Destroy!

Young Tent Caterpillars 6

Get yer gloves on: It’s ‘pillar huntin’ time!

‘Tis the season to head outdoors in the cool of the early morning or evening, and search your trees for young tent caterpillar nests. Newly hatched, the larvae are small — which means their tents are, too. Thus, easy to remove by hand, with little loss to the tree. Look for the tell-tale webbing in the crotches of limbs and twigs. Drop the tents & larvae in a bag, seal it up, and toss it in the trash.

Young Tent Caterpillars 4 Young Tent Caterpillars 2

Click on any image to see it larger.

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For our previous posts on tent caterpillars, click here and here.

Photo credits:
Top photo by RustyBlackbird, via seabrookleckie.com
Bottom left photo via blogsmonroe.com.
Bottom right photo by Lee Harrison-Smith, seattlearborist.com

Managing and Controlling Your Tent Caterpillars

Western Tent Caterpillar photo

Now that we know a little about the western and forest tent caterpillar (see our last post), how do we defend our gardens against another invasion?

The U.S. Forest Service notes that in general, small infestations may run their courses without requiring any action on our part; additionally, the Washington Toxics Coalition reminds us that, while unsightly, “these are native insects which are controlled in the long term by natural factors” — such as parasites, unfavorable weather conditions, scarcity of food, or nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV), which can infect and transfer between the larvae.  It’s when the insects attack fruit trees, timber forests, or recreational areas, or when they become a nuisance, that direct controls may be needed.

But before we intervene, let’s start with…

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Life & Times of the Tent Caterpillar

A few days ago, MG Tia O’Neill (class of 2013) had a couple of questions about getting rid of tent caterpillar tents. These little pests were such…such…well, pests last year that we thought a more thorough examination was in order — especially as their hatching time is just around the corner. Jay F. Brenner, Director of WSU’s Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center, gives us some background on this particular family of lepidoptera.

Western Tent Caterpillars

Western Tent Caterpillars
photo by E. Beers

The western tent caterpillar is found throughout the western United States and Canada.  There are several species in the western United States, but all have similar life histories, habits and appearances.

The forest tent caterpillar is found throughout North America.  While the larvae do trail webbing wherever they go, this webbing does not function as a true tent. However, the webbing may completely cover limbs and foliage. When not feeding, the larvae gather in masses on branches or the tree trunk.

The western tent caterpillar attacks a wide range of hosts including apple, peach, plum, cherry, pear, wild rose, poplar and willow.  The forest tent caterpillar prefers maple but will also feed on the foliage of most types of fruit trees.

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