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There are 26 known species of tent caterpillar, with some species having multiple sub categories. If you have not already seen cocoons in the trees, they are coming soon! Tent caterpillars and gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate many acres of trees and make being outside in their presence undesireable, to say the least.
Tent caterpillars prefer wild cherry, choke cherry, apple, and ornamental crabapple trees. However, they also will attack hawthorn, mountain ash, box elder, elm, maple, birch, willow, poplar, and oak trees. A sample of some of the many species Gypsy Moth caterpillars eat includes oak, maple, apple, crabapple, aspen, willow, birch, mountain ash, pine and spruce. Most trees will re-leaf if attacked by these pests, but most people do not appreciate the critters crawling on their driveways, decks and playground equipment.
This doesn’t mean you can’t grow these trees! In the spring, if webs are present, colonies of young larvae can be removed by clipping and destroying the tents and caterpillars. This is best done when the caterpillars are at rest in the tent, either in early morning, late evening, or on cool rainy days. A pole pruner can be used to remove the nests in taller trees. When they are out of their cocoons, spraying insecticides like Bonide’s Eight or liquid Sevin will help reduce their seemingly endless populations. Please be sure to read the label for instructions and application rates.