Tent Caterpillars on Fruit Trees

Now that the buds are beginning to enlarge on our trees and bushes it won’t be long before we start noticing tent caterpillars There are a number of different worms that show up which includes the gypsy moth caterpillar, the eastern tent caterpillar, the fall webworm, eunomonus caterpillar plus various species of saw flies.

The eastern tent caterpillar is the one that is most prevalent and causes the most concerns in spring on fruit trees. This caterpillar has the ability to completely defoliate small trees. The defoliation is usually only temporary as this caterpillar only has one life cycle each year. They are often found on chokecherry trees in fence lines but they are also attracted to other fruit trees such as flowering crab, apple or cherry trees.

The life cycle begins in the spring. The over-wintering egg masses are deposited on small twigs in the fall by the female moth. These eggs hatch about the time the buds begin to open, usually in late March or early May, and the emerging worms form small tent structures in the branches. As the worms grow they enlarge the tents and may combine together to form larger tents. During the day or in rainy weather the worms remain in the tents. They emerge to feed in the early morning, evening, or at night when it is not too cold.

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