Eastern tent caterpillars, forest tent caterpillars, the fall web worm, and gypsy moths are often confused by the public.
These caterpillars are very similar but there are differences that are apparent if you know what to look for. For a comparison chart of the differences, click here.
The eastern tent caterpillar has a chewing mouth and constructs tents from which the larvae feed before they become those destructive caterpillars we all have seen crawling everywhere. They tend to select cherry, plum, peach, pecan trees and are the first creepy crawlers that we see in the spring.
These caterpillars defoliate trees which usually does not hurt the tree but it sure looks bad and become a real nuisance and mess when they crawl by and you squish them under your feet.
After about 10 weeks of activity, they become reddish brown adult moths.
Their nest is found in the crotches of trees and not on the branch ends like the forest tent caterpillars or the hard case egg nests of the gypsy moth.
NATURAL ORGANIC CONTROL:
- Cuckoo birds are their only predator who eats the caterpillar.
- Small parasitic wasps lay their eggs in the larvae for food for their larvae.
- Removal and destruction of the caterpillar or the tent or egg case is effective. Use a stick to wind and twist the tent off the tree or prune or scrape the case off the tree and squash it or toss it or drop the caterpillars in a jar of soapy water to kill them.
- Do not burn the nest as burning will damage the tree for sure.
- Larvae in the nest must be sprayed when they crawl out periodically to feed or the tent will protect them from the insectide that was applied.
- Caterpillars if sprayed directly as they crawl will be quickly controlled. Use all pesticides only as instructed on their labels.