Eastern tent caterpillars are common in the eastern regions in the United States of America. Otherwise known as tent worms, they are more of a nuisance than an actual threat. Because these worms have a tendency to multiply in quick time, it is imperative to control them as soon as possible to prevent their infestation. This is a major step in the direction of tent caterpillar control.
Most people tend to confuse tent worms with fall webworms. However, there are some differences between the two species of worms, both in terms of appearance and a number of other features. Known for being active towards the beginning of the spring season, tent worms prefer to build nests in the branches of trees. They either prefer ornamental fruit trees or wild cherry trees for the purpose. Also, they are adept at nesting in the forks of maple and willow trees
By and large, tent worms do not cause any major issue except for infestation. However, when left unchecked, they can multiply in large numbers, thereby giving one a hard time to bring the situation back to normal at the subsequent stages. By building colonies, tent caterpillars can have an adverse effect on trees, besetting them in several ways. For instance, trees that get affected by the multiplication of tent worms not only show a lack of growth but also become susceptible to a number of other diseases. More often than not, it generally happens with deciduous trees or shrubs.
Other than deciduous trees, such patterns are also common in neglected orchards or roadside trees. Apart from defoliation, the larvae of the worms are also known to produce tents or unsightly webs that can linger on the crotches of branches for several days. The webs offer an additional layer of protection to the worms from predators and a number of other elements that can affect their growth. This makes tent caterpillar control more complicated than what it appears to be on the surface.
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Table of Contents
The Living Habits of Tent Caterpillar
Tent caterpillars generally spend the winter or live through it in a collection of numerous eggs. These eggs normally hatch in the spring – the time when cherry leaves also start to unfold. The newly born caterpillars assemble at a crotch and construct a silk web in the branches of the cherry tree. While younger caterpillars feed during the daytime and live in the tent at night, the older ones do the opposite to survive.
Upon maturity, a larva measures up to 2 inches. In terms of appearance, it is black with a white stripe at the back and blue spots among yellow lines that run along its length. The body is characterized by the growth of fine hairs all along. Once matured, a caterpillar looks for a new tree, leaving the host tree, to spin a cocoon. It will generally choose a fence post, debris on the ground, sides of buildings and tree trunks for the purpose. Eventually, it develops into a moth within a couple of weeks’ time. Thereafter, it grows into an adult moth and mates. In the process, it lays eggs that overwinter and the cycle continues.
Moths look like large-sized butterflies with a distinctive appearance. They have reddish-brown wings with white stripes that run diagonally on two front wings. On average, only one generation of a moth grows each year after spending nine months in the egg stage.
In broad terms, the lifecycle of a caterpillar can be divided into the following stages:
- Egg:Tent worms lay eggs in masses that generally range between 200 and 400. A brownish grey material protects the eggs from different weather elements. As for appearance, the egg is about 1/25 inch or 1mm in length.
- Larva:About 2 inches long, the larva of a fully developed eastern tent caterpillar is about 2 inches long with fine and yellowish brown hairs. Apart from black and bluish spots, there is also a distinctive light stripe on its body down the middle.
- Pupa:This is the stage wherein the caterpillars show signs of maturity. This also the juncture wherein a caterpillar shows the signs of transitioning into its adulthood.
- Adult: Once they reach their adulthood, caterpillars look totally different in comparison to their appearances in the previous stages. They develop wings and become moths.
Natural Strategies for Tent Caterpillar Control
Are you wrestling with the problem of your plants being damaged by caterpillars? I If yes, you are not alone. There are numerous other people who are facing the same issue and are seeking a solution to tent caterpillar control. It goes without saying that the experience of having a tug-of-war with caterpillars can be frustrating, especially when one takes the damage it can do to edible crops.
Caterpillars are just like other worms and the best way to deal with their increasing numbers is to observe and diagnose the cause for it. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”, as the saying goes. In line with the saying, controlling and prevention of tent caterpillar is an important step to meet and beat the challenge.
Wondering what you can do to overcome the difficult challenge of tent caterpillar control? If you are a fan of natural remedies, you can think about employing certain sneaky strategies. Apart from managing the growing population of caterpillars, you will also be able to actually put a stop to it if you employ the strategies given below.
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How to Control Tent Caterpillar in Garden?
- Prevent the access of caterpillars to your crops
Exclusion is one of the simplest, yet effective strategies of putting an end to the flourishing numbers of any species. As is the case with other living beings, caterpillars also require food to survive. If somehow you are able to prevent caterpillars from accessing their food sources, you can take care of the infestation of caterpillars with ease. What can you do to prevent moths from laying eggs or making contact with plants? You can do so with ease by investing in a protective netting. It is both a sustainable and simple solution to the problems related to tent caterpillar control.
Seeking a way to stave off the damages to crops and vegetables by caterpillars? It’s simple – Use crop covers and vegetable nets to keep caterpillars from affecting your eatables. If commercial options look expensive to you, there are some DIY options that you can try out. You can use fine mesh netting, floating row covers, bags or sleeves, etc for the purpose.
- Plant catch crops
Do you know there is a simple way to make butterflies unload their baby bundles on sources other than edible crops? Wondering how to do so? It’s simple – use flowers, herbs and nasturtiums to accomplish the task. In this procedure, the other crop which draws the attention of caterpillars away from the main crop is known as “catch crop”. You can make this strategy pay dividends by using it in collaboration with other techniques. Many people have benefitted by trying out this simple method of tent caterpillar control.
- Diversify the species of plants in your garden for eastern tent caterpillar control
As far as the prospect of growing plants in the backyard is concerned, the popular perception is greater the diversity of plants, lesser the chances of pests attacking them. This also holds true in the case of gardens. A garden with a rich diversity of plants sends confusing scent signals to butterflies and egg-laying adult moths. As a result, they fail to flourish in quick time.
Contemplate trying this simple but effective strategy to minimize the losses to plants in your garden or backyard. As a matter of fact, think about pairing tall and skinny spring onions with cauliflower or cabbage. Chances are you will be able to notice the difference within a few days’ time.
Alternatively, also try planting edible plants of different shapes and sizes in your garden instead of the conventional tactics of planting in a row. For best results in this regard, go for a cottage garden design. Though you will need to repeat your plantings at uniform intervals of time by adopting the strategy, you can be assured about the results. This will also serve to make the things difficult for moth and butterfly mummies. To put it the other way, it will make it difficult for them to locate their source of food. And it is an open secret that no pest can survive for too long without the supply of food.
- Detect caterpillars in advance
A voracious army of caterpillars can deplete your crops in a short span of time. What can you do to nip them in the bud? Well, the solution to the problem lies in closing the door on them as soon as possible. You can compare the army of caterpillars with a group who are in the habit of opening the fridge every now and then to feed their mouths. The sooner you are able to lock the fridge door, better would be the chances of preventing them from eating up all the food.
More than moth eggs, it is the baby caterpillar which poses a real threat to your plants. After hatching, it starts munching the leaves of your plants and its appetite grows with the passage of time as it transitions into its adulthood. As a result, not only does the challenge of tent caterpillar control make an appearance but also runs out of control with the passage of time.
Early detection can be of great help with regard to eastern tent caterpillar control on the rapidly growing numbers of caterpillars. If possible, be the detective in your garden. Think about playing hide and seek – the favorite game for kids. It’s just that you would take up the role of pest patroller in the game. Look for caterpillar eggs at the centre of the crown of the leaves. You are more likely to spot a few on the undersides of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbages, lettuce and Asian greens. Tiny caterpillars just love to be at the spot.
Look for the subtle clues such as telltale green droppings, or holes in the leaves to detect the presence of caterpillars or caterpillar babies in a location. For best results, think about using a magnifying glass. Looking at every leaf one by one can be a little hectic or time-consuming. To simplify matters for yourself, consider using your finger to smear a pile of eggs onto the leaves. This is an effective way to spot the older culprits that eat their way to veg heaven naturally and formulate your strategy linked to eastern tent caterpillar control.
Homemade Repellents to Deal with Tent Caterpillar
A beautiful butterfly can be the centre of attention to a majority of people. However, it seems a shame to even consider that a caterpillar has to go through several stages to develop into a beautiful butterfly or a large-sized moth. The sad part of their journey is that as the baby or grown-up caterpillars they inflict a heavy damage on helpless garden plants. As a result, the application of homemade repellents to deal with tent caterpillar assumes its importance.
Apart from some of the simple biological methods of tent caterpillar control, you can also turn to some homemade repellents to deal with tent caterpillar. Given below is a list of home repellents which you can use for the purpose.
Fresh peppers can be sued to make a caterpillar killing spray at home. Firstly, chop ½ cup of habanero peppers and crush six garlic cloves. Next, prepare a puree of garlic and peppers using the following items:
- 1tbsp liquid soap
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups of water
Collect the above ingredients in a blender. Now, power the mixture into a quart glass jar cover it properly in such a way that it is airtight. Next, put it in sun for a couple of days. Use a coffee filter to strain the solution into a spray bottle. Apply the spray generously at the hide-outs of caterpillars to get your desired results of tent caterpillar control.
Add 1 teaspoon liquid soap to 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix them well with 2 cups of warm water. Collect the solution in a spray bottle and spray it liberally on caterpillars. If you have grown plants such as orchids and squashes, refrain from using this remedy as it can be detrimental to the well-being of these plants.
On a calm day, in which no rain is expected, use pesticides in the early morning. Before you try out the procedure, it is a good idea to carry out a patch test. Before applying a pesticide in whole, you can see how the plants respond by putting a drop of it on the leaves or branches of a plant. If it does not show any sign of damage in the vicinity of 24-48 hours, you can be certain that it is safe to use pesticides. Use them in the early morning as honeybees are likely to come up during the daytime.
Organic Treatments to Control Tent Caterpillars
Do you have an organic garden? Chances are you may want to use a solution which is “organic” to prevent the damages to your organic vegetables or fruits. While there are some tried and tested products in this regard, Multi-Purpose Insect killer and BT Garden are the prominent ones in the market. These solutions are popular are known for their stellar performance.
Bacillus thuringiensis in BT Dust makes it a powerful and effective solution which can help kill caterpillars in 7-10 days. All you need to do is apply only 2-3 oz per 50 feet for plants that are 2-3 feet high. For best results, consider applying it every 7-10 days.
For taller trees, Multipurpose Insect Killer is the ideal solution. It generally lasts for 7 days when applied to organic vegetables and fruits on organic gardens. It works well in conjunction with water.
Caterpillar Barrier With Insect Glue
This is an off-beat approach to tent caterpillar control. Choose an area and apply a band of insect glue to it. Avoid doing it with your hands as it can harm the skin. You can use a spatula or a spoon to achieve the objective. Next, increase the width of the band up to 1 inch. This is a trap for tent caterpillars: they will get stuck as and when they would try to walk over it. If you follow this procedure, you will be able to address the problem related to the exponential growth of caterpillars in quick time.
Tent Caterpillar Spray
Bifen XTS kills tent caterpillars in an instant, thereby providing an effective means for tent caterpillar control. As a concentrate, it offers a viable option to deal with the problem on all kinds of trees. However, it is strongly recommended that one should exercise caution while using it on food crops or on home-grown shrubs. Despite its low odor, it not only kills the leaf-munchers but also lingers on the leaves and branches of trees for a long time. Usually, it lasts up to a month and takes care of any pest, including caterpillars and moths, on the surfaces to which it is applied. For desired results, it is necessary to mix 5 gallons of Bifen XTS with water and sprinkle it on plants covering an area of 5,000 sq/ft.
Final Thoughts of Tent Caterpillars Control
Caterpillars – the former butterflies – are not known to cause any harm to plants in a direct manner. However, their chewing of leaves can cause some serious damage to the growth and development of trees and plants. So, arresting their growing numbers is one of the imperatives for tent caterpillar control for both crop and non-crop plants. If you have been wondering how to get rid of tent caterpillar, consider using one of the aforementioned methods to address the problem.