Pest Alert – Eastern Tent Caterpillar

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Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Every Spring, cherries, oaks and many other trees are attacked by a web forming caterpillar. Eastern tent caterpillars are active in spring. They emerge at about the same time new leaves appear in cherry, apple and other host trees.

The caterpillars build their nests in the crotches of branches in many types of trees. They don’t feed inside the nests, but congregate there during the day and in rainy weather. During the night, the moth larvae strip the leaves from branches within a several feet of their nests.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Wherever the larvae crawl, they leave a fine thread of silk behind. After a few days, you can easily see silken pathways from the webs to the first good feeding site.

When the caterpillars mature after four to six weeks, they scatter, spin cocoons and pupate. They emerge as reddish-brown moths, which deposit hundreds of eggs in masses. The little wads of eggs will stick around through the summer, fall and winter. About nine months later, they’ll hatch into tiny larvae that will pitch their tents in the trees again.

These insects defoliate trees, stripping all the leaves off some trees.


Since they are in the crotches of limbs, it is difficult if not impossible to prune these critters out. If you can reach the nest, break it open using a stick so that the birds can eat the caterpillars. Insecticides are sometimes the only option. Bt is a biological product that is effective at eliminating the insects.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Nest in a treeeastern tent caterpillar eastern tent caterpillar