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What’s munching on your tree? Could be tent caterpillars!
Well so do a lot of leaf-chewing pests! If you look up, and look closely, you might start to notice some of these critters having your tree for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We are beginning to see tent caterpillars, leaf rollers and bagworms in trees now.
There are several types of caterpillars that can present big problems for your trees here in Texas. One of these groups of leaf-eating pests are Tent Caterpillars, often confused with Fall Webworms. These caterpillars can defoliate your trees, which stunts their growth and vigor. Early detection and proper identification of an infestation is key to properly treating the tree.
There are four types of Tent Caterpillars: Eastern Tent Caterpillar, Western Tent Caterpillar, Sonoran Tent Caterpillar and Forest Tent Caterpillar. Both the Eastern and Western Tent Caterpillars build large conspicuous webs around large sections of branches near the tree trunk. They then feed on new leaves emerging on the tree. The Sonoran Tent Caterpillar, however, is harder to spot as it builds small webs when it molts, but otherwise lives outside the web. The Forest Tent Caterpillar builds tightly woven mats of web on branches where many larvae cluster together and then leave the web to feed on leaves.
In spring or early summer, female moths deposit their eggs on tree trunks and small twigs. The caterpillars then hatch the following spring as the tree’s new foliage is emerging. Tent caterpillars feed in large groups and so can quickly destroy large sections of your tree’s canopy.
There are natural methods we can use to control infestations of webworms of all kinds. If we can identify an infestation in a timely fashion, we can use a non-toxic plan of installing a biological control: wasp discs containing live Trichogramma wasp eggs. These microscopic and determined predators go after the web larvae, leaving humans and pets alone. Populations of tent caterpillars can also be treated with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), deadly to the caterpllars but harmless to birds, fish, pets and people. If you suspect your tree has an infestation, give us a call for an inspection at or email us at [email protected]