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Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

The tent caterpillar favors wild cherry, apple and crabapple trees.

The eastern tent caterpillar is a pest native to the United States whose presence was first recorded in the mid-1600's. It is found in eastern and central United States and has been seen as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Other tree species it feeds on include:

  • ash 
  • birch 
  • sweetgum
  • willow
  • maple 
  • oak 

What does the tent caterpillar look like?

The adult stage is a reddish brown moth that deposits its eggs in summer. When the eggs hatch the following spring, serious damage begins as the caterpillars' voracious feeding can defoliate the host tree. 

The fully grown caterpillar is black with a white stripe down the back with several bright blue spots along each side. 

What will happen to my tree infested by tent caterpillars? 

Though all tree varieties can be affected by the tent caterpillar, it is not considered a serious threat except when attacking black cherry trees. On all trees, the larvae spin a silken webbing as they move. They radiate out from a branch fork creating the so-called tent. When populations are large, trees can become unsightly with webbing, and most of the foliage may be devoured by the caterpillars. 

Management and treatment options

Damage on smaller trees can be reduced by removing the egg masses during winter. Remove larvae by clipping and destroying the tents when they are still small and inside the tent. A bacterium or chemical application can also be used to control the larvae. 

Worried the eastern tent caterpillar is infesting your trees? Find your local arborist to request a consultation for an inspection.


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