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Tent Caterpillars Guide: Facts to Know

November 7, 2018
Tent Caterpillars Guide

Tent caterpillars are the caterpillars of various moths and butterfly classes. Scattered throughout the United States and Canada, these caterpillars augment quickly and can defoliate a substantial number of deciduous trees and plants in a short interval. They are usually observed on roadside trees and in deferred orchards.

There are basically three types of tent caterpillars:

  1. The forest tent caterpillars
  2. The western tent caterpillars
  3. The eastern tent caterpillars

The forest tent caterpillars have light blue coloured stripes running down their backs and have a blue coloured head whereas the eastern tent caterpillars have white coloured stripes on their backs. On the other hand, the western tent caterpillars are reddish brown in colour and have a mixture of orange and blue coloured spots in their backs. These western caterpillars further grow up as an adult and inhibit yellow coloured linings on their wings.

Other than defoliation, the worms create large hideous webs, or tents, in the corners of tree branches. These trellises are used to shield the caterpillars from predators. Although tent damage is repulsive, infestations seldom endanger the longevity of trees.

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar Life Cycle

These tent caterpillars lay eggs that look like a dark coloured mass sticking around tree twigs. If you happen to see a tent caterpillar egg mass on a twig then it is not just a single one, the egg mass can give birth to 150 to 350 young ones. Once the egg hatches and the young ones come out of the egg mass, they start building their tents in the nearby branches.

If you are wondering as to why do they build these tents? Then you must know that their tents act as a protective layer for these tent caterpillars and are made of silk fibres. These caterpillars are little eating machines, and they feed on the leaves for about seven to eight weeks. After attaining the state of an adult caterpillar, they make a move to other nearby safe areas where they start spinning their cocoons.

The larva that is present in the cocoon slowly gets transformed into a pupa, and this pupal stage lasts for a couple of weeks before transforming into an adult tent caterpillar. Once the adult caterpillar emerges out of the pupa, the same tent caterpillar life cycle continues once the adult female counterparts of this breed start laying their eggs on tree twigs.

Interesting Facts about Forest Tent Caterpillars

 Forest Tent Caterpillars

Forest tent caterpillars are tiny creatures that munches off the tree leaves and enjoy having a gala good feed on the leaf canopied trees. Obviously one will not prefer to sight one in their garden due to the enormous losses that they may cause to your plants, but here are few interesting facts about forest tent caterpillars that you would not like to miss.

  • They are more of a night insect

Yes, you have heard it right these tiny creatures are habitual of relaxing during the day time and are active during the dark. They feed on leaves during nights and prefer to have a gala good time resting time during the day.

  • They stay in groups

We have always heard “united we stand, divided we fall’, these insects have taken this phrase a bit seriously. They believe that unity is strength and follow the same to keep themselves protected from the predators. These tent caterpillars ate always found to be in groups and clusters and can be found twirling around the twigs in clumps. Being in a group safeguards them against the predators and reduces the chances of them being picked off by a bird or any other natural predator. They follow the colonial pattern to save themselves from being bugged off.

  • They are munching machines

The tent caterpillars may seem to be small and tiny, but they have great stamina talking in terms of their eating capacity. They can eat away the leaves in bulk. They can eat the leaves and defoliate them to such an extent that the whole plant may face the subsequent consequences. Another thing that is a cause of concern is that these insects can feed on to any tree though chokecherry and ash trees are their favourite.

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  • The have an extended egg lifespan

You will be surprised to know that these insects spend a significant part of their lifetime as an egg. The tent caterpillar life cycle starts with an egg, and the eggs remain in this form all through the winters and hatch up somewhere around the month of May. After this stage, they form the larvae and will further reach the pupa stage and then finally do they become an adult.

  • Eggs look like a poop

The adult tent caterpillars are very quick in mating and in a period of six to seven weeks, they mate and lay eggs. If you clearly observe the cluster of eggs sticking to the branches and twigs, you will resemble it to a piece of poop sticking on the twigs of trees.

  • The pet tent caterpillars

Though having these caterpillars as pets must have already given you some shivers, but yes these fuzzy insects can entice your kids. You can keep these squirmy looking garden pests in a container and keep it in your home as a pet. You can drop in a few leaves into the container so that they get to have something for their munching needs and a natural habitat as well.

Caterpillar vs. Gypsy Moth

People usually tend to compare caterpillar vs. gypsy moth because they have few resemblances. So here is how you can differentiate between the two:

The eastern tent caterpillar can make silk nests on tree branches and twigs whereas this is not the case for gypsy moth. If you talk specifically about tent caterpillars, they are dark in colour and have tanned hair with mottles of blue and white colour. You can also get to see the white stripes on their bodies giving them a differentiated look. The eastern tent caterpillars are the ones which have these white coloured stripes running down their backs whereas the forest tent caterpillars have spots on their back.

Talking about the gypsy moths, they are also hairy little, but they do not have these white stripes on their backs as of the tent caterpillars. These gypsy moths have three pairs of tubercles which are blue in colour and are present on their backs. These blue tubercles are present posterior to the head and are followed by a series of red coloured tubercles. These moths prefer to be on oak trees and causes a high infestation, though they can feed on any leaves, oaks being their favourite.

Damages Caused by Tent Caterpillars

Damages Caused by Tent Caterpillars

Tent caterpillars feed on various types of trees such as oaks, cherries, apple, shrubs, forest trees, etc. Nibbling on the leaves can cause the plants to deteriorate, and this can go to such an extent that the plants weakens and seldom dies as well. If a tree happens to be invaded by a whole group of tent caterpillars, then there are high chances of the tree losing all its foliage’s.

Not only do these pests eat up the leaves but if a plant is infested with these tent caterpillars, the leaves are stripped off from the twigs as you can assume it to be during the autumn season. Tent caterpillar infestation can prove to be fatal for the plants and can hike the chances for the plants to be diseased. Thus it is essential to prevent these pests from gaining an entry to your gardens.

Ways to Keep Tent Caterpillars Away From Your Gardens

Tent caterpillars are one of the several popular defoliators of deciduous trees in Canada. They serve on the leaves of aspen and other trees, but experts say the destruction is not continual.

Homeowners can apply eco-friendly oils or damage the nests of forest tent caterpillars to get rid of them. One alternative to bypass the difficulty is to shut off outside lights because insects are drawn to bright lights and will often produce more caterpillar eggs on trees in illuminated regions. This is a very basic thing that you can do to keep off these pests but it doesn’t serve well in the long run. Apart from this basic tip, there are a lot many other ways to prevent tent caterpillar infestation in your yards. Keep reading to acquaint yourselves with few tips and hacks to prevent the damages caused by these pests.

Natural Repellents to Get Rid of Tent caterpillars

There are some powerful natural means to get rid of tent caterpillars. These simple methods are environment-friendly and at the same time can encourage you to get rid of pests and insects very soon.

  • Oils and Soaps

Natural Repellents to Get Rid of Tent caterpillars

Horticultural lubricants and insecticidal solvents do a good job in destroying tent caterpillar by preventing their access to food sources. These materials tend to suffocate insects by interfering with their normal process of breathing. Once the body of a caterpillar comes in contact with oils and soaps, its body gets dried out immediately. Leaves that are treated with soaps and oils are less likely to draw the attention of caterpillars. That said, certain chemicals are also known to have an adverse effect on plants and leaves. So, it is recommended that you should do a patch test by spraying a small amount of soaps and oils on the branches and leaves of the affected plants. If it does not show any sign of damage, you can use it safely as a remedy to eliminate the menace of the growing population of caterpillars.

  • Bacterial Controls

Various bacterial products assist you in killing caterpillars without doing any harm other useful insects. Saccharopolyspora spinosa or Bacillus Thuringiensis are pests that originally combat caterpillars. These microorganisms will either eat them and will themselves die or pick the other source of food. Bacterial restraints work great on new born caterpillars because the larger caterpillars tend to consume comparatively lesser and have healthier immune systems.

  • Botanical Repellents

Botanical tent caterpillar repellents can be obtained or acquired from plants. They tend to deteriorate at a faster rate in the presence of moisture and other favorable conditions. As a result, botanical repellents do not harm useful insects as much as chemical repellents do. The effectiveness or usefulness of botanical repellents also depends on the accuracy with which these repellents are used. Some popular alternatives involve limes and orange and other similar fruits, citrus oils from oranges, chrysanthemum-based pyrethrins, neem oil, hot peppers capsaicin. The eastern tent caterpillar poisonous consequences can be resisted. To resist them, you must apply these repellents over all the stalks you want to protect. These are more effective on smaller trees. You can also sprinkle some herbal items on caterpillars to shorten their life-span.

DIY Repellents to Shorten Eastern Tent Caterpillar Lifecycle at Home

You can go through these methods to get rid of tent caterpillar damage and to prevent further tent caterpillar infestations. Here are some tent caterpillar treatment tips that you can follow to have some peace of mind.

– Removing by Hand

If tiny trees contain tent caterpillar damage, the easiest method of eliminating the caterpillars is to pluck off the bugs by hand. You can squeeze them within your thumbs or step on them to destroy eastern tent caterpillar poisonous effects, but that is not a work for a person with a delicate abdomen. A much fresh alternative is to drop the tent caterpillars in a basin of soapy water. The insects will die on contact with the liquid.

– Destroying Nests

Tent caterpillar and gypsy moth cradles look like soft bags dangling in branches. You can either eliminate each nest by cutting the silken cord at its top and then releasing the whole nest in soapy water or split the nest open with a bat and let birds prey on the tent caterpillars and gypsy moths. The bugs feed during the day when the sun gleams. So exclude nests at dawn, dusk, or on unclear days after the tent caterpillars return to them.

– Preventing Attacks

Covering a barrier around each tree’s body and painting the barrier stops eastern tent caterpillars poisonous effects from attacking the trees. Enclose a band of tar paper, tin foil,  or duct tape entirely around each tree’s trunk, and paint each barrier with petroleum jelly. Caterpillars cannot drag over the painted barriers. Reapply the jelly as required, and avoid putting it straight on the trees as it could damage the bark. This way you can succeed in tent caterpillar treatment.

– Helping Damaged Trees

Trees that experienced a tent caterpillar infestation require proper care. Keep defoliated trees hydrated. They demand at least 1 inch of water from natural precipitation and irrigation per week from May throughout September. Additionally, bypass using manure and weed-and-feed products that put extra pressure on the trees as they act to create foliage. As infected trees often are targeted by bugs and insects, examine your trees frequently so you can recognize problems and give them a tent caterpillar treatment before they create further damage.

Tent Caterpillars Final Guide

Tent Caterpillars Final Guide

You can eliminate infestations when a petite or restricted area is affected by these tent caterpillars. Nevertheless, if you notice cracks developing in other places, you must consider working for germ control on an urgent basis. You can utilize insecticidal methods to the exterior of the wood parts which remains displayed to moisture. That way you will have a greater possibility to get attacked by tent caterpillars. Though these insecticidal methods are not sufficient to get rid of the pests entirely as they are not capable of reaching the larvae of the caterpillars burrowed under inside the trees. Thus this tent caterpillar treatment method has some shortcomings.

You can handle the covering of the trees with pesticides, and they will have lingering outcomes so that re-infestation does not occur and the grown-up insects get destroyed as soon as they arise on the exterior of the trees. You can use basic oils and absolute heat effects to eliminate the tent caterpillars. Though you can use formulas that comprise borates, it will enter into the timbers and kill the larvae at the heart of its dwelling place.

If the tent caterpillars continue after using DIY and other original methods you should get in touch with a pest control organization and allow the authorities to kill these pests from the roots so that they do not reverse. They will not only regulate the population of caterpillars but, they will also take care which is needed to prevent the reoccurrence of the infestation. Go through the entire article to understand the objectives of pest control, and how to eliminate the harmful effects of caterpillars. Tent caterpillar damage is a common issue and thus it needs to be taken care of before it goes out of our way to control it.

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