Updated at: 20-05-2022 - By: Sienna Lewis

The tent caterpillar, a common pest in North America, may be to blame if you detect web-like constructions between the branches of your trees, especially decorative and fruit trees. The larvae of a variety of moths can be found in your trees and feed on the leaves of your plants. They are suitably named for the silk tents they erect in host trees’ branches.

Trees can lose their leaves if infested severely. You can help protect your plants from hazardous infestations by knowing how to get rid of tent caterpillars and choosing safe control solutions.

The sort of tent caterpillar you’re dealing with and the best ways to control it can both be determined by where you live in the United States or elsewhere.

About Tent Worms

Caterpillars that look like tents are commonly mistaken for fall webworms, but this is not the case. The activity of tent worms and webworms occurs at different times of the year.

When it comes to the location of their nests, both tent worms and webworms prefer to build their homes in the branches’ forks.

How to Identify and Control Tent Caterpillars | Gardener's Path

The nests of fall webworms are likewise lined with leaves or other plant material. Do not apply to tent caterpillars. Trees with beautiful fruit, such as wild cherries, are preferred by tent worms. However, they will also lay their eggs in ash willow and maple trees. Tent caterpillars rarely pose substantial difficulties aside from the unsightliness of their webs on trees.

Large colonies, on the other hand, can dramatically reduce the number of leaves on trees. For the most part, this does not destroy trees, but it can increase their susceptibility to disease and other issues. Also, tent caterpillars are known to eat adjacent vegetation.

Tent Caterpillar Removal & Tent Caterpillar Home Remedy

The nests or egg cases of tent caterpillars may normally be taken out by hand when tent caterpillar eradication is required. When the leaves fall from the trees, egg cases can be plainly spotted.

Winding the nest around a stick or chopping it down and disposing of it are two methods for removing large nests.

The best time for tent caterpillar removal is early morning or evening while they’re still likely to be in the nest. Another way to limit the population of tent worms is to introduce natural enemies such as wasps. Creating a bird-friendly habitat is also an effective home treatment for tent caterpillars.

How to Kill Tent Worms

Sometimes getting rid of tent caterpillars means killing them.

Getting rid of tent caterpillars may include killing them at times.

Spray the foliage and tent worm nests immediately with the solution. You can get rid of tent caterpillars by following these simple instructions. In no time at all, your trees will return to their former glory.

Eastern Tent Caterpillars

It is usual to see eastern tent caterpillars in the eastern United States and the Rocky Mountains. Large infestations can severely impair the aesthetics of ornamental trees due to the fact that their populations fluctuate year to year. The caterpillars begin to spin webs as soon as they hatch from their eggs.

They can be found in a wide range of common trees.

Yellow stripes and oval-shaped blue spots decorate the black hairy bodies of eastern tent caterpillars. Eastern tent caterpillars are commonly mistaken for gypsy moths, which seem similar but lack one distinct feature: a white stripe that runs down the back of their bodies. This stripe is not present in gypsy moths.

Western Tent Caterpillars

Some trees in the southern Rocky Mountains are host trees for both western tent caterpillars and forest caterpillars, which are common in Northwest. The two are around the same size, yet there are significant differences in their features.

Western Tent Caterpillar | Project Noah

With black stripes running down their backs, Western tent caterpillars are orange. During the spring, as the eggs hatch, their “tents” begin to emerge. Trees begin to bloom at this time of year, and these pests feast on the new growth as soon as they hatch. They can be found on a wide range of host trees, including:.

  • Oak
  • a Wild Plum
  • Poplar
  • Willow
  • Sumac

Forest Tent Caterpillars

The tent caterpillars of the forest are easily spotted because of their distinctive look. Their blue coats with black spots and the white, foot-print-shaped markings in the middle of their backs make them easy to spot in the crowd. Their webs are silken mats between the tree branches, but they aren’t regarded “tents” in the traditional sense of the word. The following are some examples of host trees:

  • A variety of maple trees that produce a lot of
  • Aspen
  • Oaks
  • Cherry
  • Birch
  • Sycamore

Other Insects That Are Mistaken for Tent Caterpillars

Other moths and insects are often confused for tent caterpillars. They have a variety of outcomes for your home.

Gypsy Moths

Control strategies for gypsy moth caterpillars differ slightly from those for tent caterpillars. It’s not until later in the year that gypsy moths begin to appear, not in the springtime. Every year, a new generation of decorative shrubs, conifers, and trees is born. Fruit trees may also have them.

Fall Webworms

People who talk about tent worms might perhaps be referring to fall webworms. These caterpillars are not tent caterpillars, yet they are sometimes referred to as such. Unlike the eastern tent caterpillars, fall webworms are creamy-white, hairy, and have dark markings on their bodies.

Unlike tent caterpillars, which utilize their tents as protection, these caterpillars construct webs around the tips of branches and leaves and eat off them. Fall webworms are most active in the fall, as their name suggests.

Tent Caterpillar Lifecycle and Control

When dealing with a caterpillar infestation or killing tent caterpillars, it is necessary to know the pest’s life cycle. On their first outing in the spring, Eastern tent caterpillars will have completed their life cycle by the end of the summer. Because the trees have time to establish new foliage, they are less likely to die from an infection. They can, however, harm a tree’s look and well-being.

From January to March, Eastern tent caterpillars lay their eggs in host trees. Early in the spring, the eggs begin to hatch, and the larvae feed and mature into adults over the following months. In the summer, adult moths begin depositing fresh eggs, which continue through the fall and into the early winter.

Spraying trees with an oil to smother the eggs might be done during the winter months when the eggs are dormant. There are many different types of insect pest eggs that can be killed with Safer®Brand BioNEEM® neem oil concentrate. Using this substance, insects are killed before they molt into their adult stage because it disrupts their hormonal balance. Azadirachtin, a naturally occurring Insect Growth Regulator derived from the neem seed, is found in BioNEEM®.

Use a spray that kills pests at all phases of growth, such as Safer®Brand Caterpillar Killer, if you don’t begin controlling the caterpillars while they are dormant. Caterpillar infestations can be eliminated with the use of this product. This product’s active ingredient, Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, is safe for use on humans, birds, and other animals. Caterpillars, on the other hand, are quickly killed by it.

This item is perfect for:

  • Control of forest tent caterpillars
  • Tent caterpillar control in the Western United States.
  • pest treatment for eastern tent caterpillars
  • Control of fall webworms
  • Control of gypsy moths
  • Caterpillars are controlled by a green step.

pruning and introducing natural predators are two other ways to eradicate tent caterpillars from a home or garden. Birds and wasps are among the caterpillar’s natural enemies. Predators consume these tree-dwelling bugs. Pruning and burning branches infested by tent caterpillars may be an option if the caterpillars’ tents are within your grasp.

Life Cycle

Female moths lay their eggs on tree trunks and small twigs in the late spring and early summer (Fig. 1). Only the Sonoran tent caterpillar uses spumaline to “glue” its eggs to tree bark or twigs, as do the females of the other Texas species. The egg mass is also protected by the hard, protective coating of the spumaline.

Throughout the summer, fall, and winter, egg mounds stay on the trees. Larvae (caterpillars) emerge from their eggs in the early spring, just as their host plants begin to grow. Caterpillars of the eastern and western tent species feast on the newly emerged leaves in a matter of days.

Webs are built by tent caterpillar larvae as they mature. The larvae are kept safe at night and during rainy weather by the web, which is most typically seen in the crotch of tiny limbs (Fig. 2). Due to their movement to feed on leaves, damage might occur a long distance away. Tent caterpillars feed in groups, therefore defoliation is generally localized.

Caterpillars of the eastern and western tents spin massive webs. It is only when the Sonoran tent caterpillar molts that it creates a little web.

larvae molt or shed their skin multiple times as they mature. Caterpillars grow in stages, or instars, from a small (1/8 inch) to a big (13/4 inch) size, between molts. The pattern of coloration might shift from one instar to the next.

The forest tent caterpillar is one of the most abundant caterpillars in the forest (Fig. 3). On trunks and larger branches, it spins an open-weaved mat that serves as a resting place rather than a shelter. It is not uncommon for hundreds of caterpillars to assemble on one of these mats in the time between meals.

In late April, forest tent caterpillars complete their development by moving many yards and feeding on a wide array of herbs, shrubs, and trees before choosing a place to spin a cocoon. Protected areas such as webs, bark, dead plant material on the ground, rolled leaves, and the eaves of houses are common places for spiders to hide. To create a cocoon, forest tent caterpillars often gather leaves together.

A white or yellowish crystalline substance is dispersed throughout the mass of cocoons made of silk. The crystalline component in cocoons can irritate the skin if handled.

It is a brown and whitish moth with two diagonal stripes on the front wings of an adult tent caterpillar (Fig. 4). Their wing spans are around one-and-a-half inches. Lights attract these moths.

One generation per year is the norm for all tent caterpillars of all kinds. During their brief lives, adults simply mate and produce eggs and do not eat.

How To Get Rid Of Tent Caterpillars [DETAILS] - Hagearbeider


When fully grown, immature tent caterpillars measure around 134 inches long. It’s largely the sides of their bodies that have lengthy hairs, but they have a few. Larvae of different species are distinguished by their color and patterns.

There is a good chance you’ll encounter tents with larvae that don’t fit the descriptions in Table 1. Fall webworms produce tents throughout the late summer and fall and can have several generations per year. Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication E-233, Fall Webworms is available at http://AgriLifeBookstore.org for further information.).


The degree of defoliation, unattractive webs, and the nuisance caused by caterpillars should guide your management strategy. There are times when a combination of cultural and chemical methods may be necessary to achieve the greatest results.

Control of the cultural environment.. If you notice egg masses on the small bare twigs, you should check your trees during winter pruning. Tent caterpillar eggs are frequently removed before they hatch during routine trimming. Get rid of the egg masses that were removed from the trees.

Pruning twigs with webs is best done in the spring, when you first detect them. If you can’t or don’t want to prune the webs, use a long pole or a high-pressure water spray to remove them by hand. It is not advisable to burn the web and caterpillars.

Crush or soak in warm, soapy water caterpillars that have fallen from the tree or are crawling around your house. Remove and dispose of the deceased caterpillars.

The use of natural methods to control pests. Tent caterpillar populations can be reduced by beneficial insects. A parasitic wasp in the Cotesia, Bracon, and Hyposter genus attacks tent caterpillars in the larval stage of development. Tent caterpillar eggs are preyed upon by Trichogramma species. Caterpillar-eating birds, lizards, and assassin bugs and paper wasps are just few of the creatures that devour tent caterpillars.

Control by chemical means. Before applying a tent caterpillar control spray, keep in mind that trees that have been defoliated early in the season are more likely to grow new leaves than trees that have been defoliated later. If the tent caterpillars have been allowed to feed and complete their development, it is pointless to spray them with insecticide. Even so, removing the tent will remove the tent’s unappealing appearance. There is no need to remove tents from trees because they are weather-resistant and can last for years unless they are taken down.

Webs can be treated with spot treatments of insecticides. When the caterpillars congregate in the early morning or late evening, use these sprays to target the tents specifically.

Spray the eggs with latent oil, a highly refined oil that coats dormant insects and eggs uniformly and smothers them. Species that can be sprayed with these oils will be listed on the product label. It is important to thoroughly spray the plant with horticultural or petroleum-based oils in order to achieve the best results.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) variant kurstaki, spinosad, or insecticidal soap are examples of naturally generated active substances. On the lesser caterpillar stages, these products are most effective. Spray the plant extensively with Bt kurstaki and spinosad to ensure that the caterpillars eat the product. Spinosad targets insects that eat a lot of foliage, whereas Bt targets only caterpillars. It is necessary to apply insecticidal soap directly on caterpillars in order to kill them.

Pyrethrum and d-limonene are examples of plant-derived insecticides. Oil-based components akin to horticultural (petroleum-based) oils may be found in some formulations, while others work by coming into touch with the pest. To be effective, pesticides based on petroleum or plant oils must be administered directly to the pest with adequate coverage.

Synthetic pesticides can kill caterpillars at any stage of their life cycle and stay much longer than most plant-based insecticides. The majority of these products, however, are capable of killing both beneficial insects and caterpillars. Bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, esfenvalerate, fluvalinate, permethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, indoxacarb, acephate, and carbaryl are among the active compounds to check for.

Professional pest control companies have access to chlorantraniliprole-based products that are not available to homeowners without a pest management license.

It is the responsibility of the pesticide user to ensure that the pesticides they use do not harm their own plants or home products, as well as those of their neighbors. Insecticides and pesticides are also vulnerable to change in regulations. Always read and follow the instructions on the product label for the most accurate instructions.


In appreciation of their time and effort, the author would like to thank Bart Drees, Glen Moore, and Kim Schofield. All photographs by Bart Drees are copyrighted.