Eastern Tent Caterpillars

I have noticed quite a few caterpillars around my house the last week or so and while I was mowing close to my orchard yesterday I noticed a couple of trees had leaves that were just the middle vein. Upon closer inspection of an outer perimeter tree it had several ETC on it. The light soon faded and I could no longer see what I was mowing so I stopped.

This evening when I came home to finish mowing all the apples and pears were covered in ETC. Probably a dozen apple trees have been completely defoliated while the pears have largely been left uneaten though with many caterpillars on them. The perimeter tree I inspected yesterday no longer had the middle vein of a leaf. Everything was just gone.

All I had on hand was some garlic pepper tea but had I know things were this bad I would have bought something stronger on the way home. Is there any chance these trees might survive or are they toast?

I found the tree they came from and it is covered in their tents. Many much higher in the tree than I can easily spray.

What is the best path forward? This will be the second summer in ground for these trees and they were really pretty and green last week.

Does anyone know what attracts them? I have a few paw paw and jujube trees that are thus far unscathed. They have also taken quite a bit of foliage off my aronia plants but they have left the elderberries alone.

Quite a depressing evening for me. Thanks for any advice.


Fear not. Spray with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). It is sold under several brands. You can buy a bottle of it at Home Depot, Lowe.

Some years, we had so many of them, we could hear the sound they made munching on leaves. They were on trees, sidings of my houses, sidewalks, etc.


This is an old thread but helpful Fruit Insects and Diseases identification

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If they actually tent caterpillars, not Gypsy moths, they feed on scheduler, and get back in the tent in between. They usually in tents very early morning. So at this time destroy as many tents with caterpillars in it as you can. You can just mechanically remove the tents using wet broom and bucket with soapy water. you can also make a sticky band for that big tree where they nest at the same time, so they can’t get down. If you spray BT on the fruit trees, repeat it every day - it gets ineffective if days are sunny very fast.


Oh no!! We have those in Vancouver. Is why I do not grow apples here. Besides we have a quarantine.

How about for Japanese beetles? What do you use for them? Thanks

i remember in the early 80’s there was a invasion of them in the northeast. i remember summers where the trees were bare like winter. trains got stuck on the tracks because all of the crushed caterpillar bodies. cars went off the roads. we used to help dad pick them off the trees and house. made a fire and threw them in. luckily we haven’t seen it that bad since but i do come across them occasionally.

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With experience you should be able to just find the tents before any damage is done and remove them. I’m sure this experience will teach you to monitor them more closely in spring, you can study what their seed-sacks look like as well and remove most of them before they begin to hatch.

What has gotten much worse than tents in my area (S NY) is “fall” web worm. It used to be only a late summer problem but last year they were all over on many species from early summer on.

I don’t have heavy infestation of JB like some of the members here do. From what I understand, people spray them with Sevin/Carbaryl. Then, I was told the Sevin changed its formula. Others who use the product could let you know.

I treat my lawn instead with milky spores several years ago. This milky spores kill JB grubs before they emerge. Even treating lawns with chemicals that kills grubs (like Scott’s Grub Ex) will help reduce JB population.

Unless your nextdoor neighbor’s lawn is infested.

My results with Milky Spore have been mixed and Cornell suggests they have trouble surviving our winters (Z6). However, years ago I had terrible JB’s and in the fall found some Milky Spore sitting around in a nearby store since spring.

I carelessly spread around the granuals on a wet day in the fall and for 25 years they haven’t been a problem since. In orchards I’ve treated since I haven’t been so lucky.

I think Cornell is recommending beneficial nems. nowadays.

Sevin knocks them down right away, but doesn’t protect for more than a week. If you mix something longer lasting, such as Assail, in the mix, you may only have to re-apply once in a very bad season for them.

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my local skunks take care of the problem for me. they love the grubs and dig them up. i happily put the divets of grass back. i use to live trap and relocate them. now i have a live and let live attitude with them and they take care of the problem for me. my wife is scared of skunks but horrified of junebugs.

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Last year was the first I noticed them. It was a bad infestation.

Milky Spores worked well for me.

Will their egg sacks be where the tents were? Or close by?

I’ll start looking in to the fall web worm but do you have any advice regarding them?

Thanks @mamuabg

How do you apply it? Thanks @danzeb

You need to read some of the threads here on sprayers, because you’ll be needing one

For a tall tree, I like to use a good hose-end sprayer to get some reach

Milky spores need to be applied per its instruction/label to be effective. Also, you need to do it at the right time of the year. Look up Milky Spores, you will find the info you look for.

@alan is correct that they don’t work too well in cold climate. I remember calling the company and was told so. It also takes a couple of years for them to be fully effective as they need to spread underground. Where it works, it lasts a decade.

I put mine in over 10 years ago.

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Thanks @mamuang