Tent caterpillars typically emerge in early spring and feed on the leaves of various deciduous trees, such as cherry, apple, plum, or oak. They are most active during the day, congregating and feeding together within their tents. As they grow, the caterpillars moult several times, shedding their old skins and increasing in size.
Identifying tent caterpillars is relatively straightforward due to their distinct characteristics:
Silk tents: The most obvious sign of tent caterpillars is the presence of silk tents in the branches or forks of trees. These tents can be quite large and easily visible, resembling silk webbing or nests. Look for clusters of tents, especially in the early spring when the caterpillars are most active.
Defoliation: Tent caterpillars are voracious feeders and can quickly defoliate trees. If you notice significant leaf loss on your trees, particularly on deciduous species like cherry, apple, or oak, it may indicate the presence of tent caterpillars. They tend to eat the leaves along the branches and leave behind bare twigs.
Caterpillar activity: Observing the actual caterpillars can confirm their presence. Tent caterpillars are most active during the day and can often be seen congregating and moving together within their tents. They have distinctive appearances, with hairy bodies and colours ranging from black to brown, often with lighter markings.
While complete prevention of tent caterpillars can be challenging, there are some steps you can take to minimize their impact:
By being vigilant and taking proactive measures to manage tent caterpillars, you can help protect your trees and minimize the impact of their feeding habits on your landscape.