Happy spring, dear readers! The weather is warming up and the flowers are blooming, but with that warmth and new growth comes the emergence of a bug you may want to keep an eye on: the eastern tent caterpillar.
Are these caterpillars a threat to your tree? We're giving you all the info you need to know about eastern tent caterpillars, including when you need to worry. Let's get into it!
Caterpillars love spring, too
Eastern tent caterpillars are early season defoliators, meaning they eat foliage at the beginning of the growing season. They particularly love trees in the Rosaceae family, which includes cherry, apple, pear, plum, and crab apple trees.
Eastern tent caterpillars get their name from the silken tents they build over their egg masses. Once the eggs hatch, the new caterpillars continue to use the tents when they're not eating to conserve heat and raise their body temperature. This helps them accelerate their growth and development during the colder days of spring. The tents can also protect the caterpillars from predators and parasitic insects.
As the caterpillars grow, so do their tents. You'll see these tents in the branch unions of your tree.
Are eastern tent caterpillars hurting your trees?
Eastern tent caterpillars eat a lot, but the defoliation probably won't kill a healthy tree.
The deciduous trees these caterpillars like to munch on can regrow their leaves after a defoliation event, so seeing eastern tent caterpillars in your tree isn't always a huge cause for concern.
Although, you should take eastern tent caterpillars more seriously if they're:
- Ruining the look of your prized trees
- Defoliating your trees year after year
- Eating a large percentage of the crowns of your smaller trees
- Adding to the stress your tree is already experiencing
- Dropping excrement all over your property
How to control eastern tent caterpillars in Concord, NC
Here's some good news: the eastern tent caterpillar has a lot of natural enemies. Birds love them, and so do spiders, ants, yellow jackets, and assassin bugs. Eastern tent caterpillars also fall prey to disease and starvation. Feel free to let nature take its course.
If you've had it with eastern tent caterpillars and want them gone from your favorite trees, you can prune out the infested branches and destroy them. If there are too many of them or you can't reach them, we offer a few solutions.
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