photo credit: Dr. Frank Hale, Entomologist, University of Tennessee
The Eastern tent caterpillar is frequently the first insect that I receive calls about in the spring. Eggs overwinter on wild cherry trees and move on long silken treads to tasty landscape tree foliage nearby. Larvae and caterpillars consume lots of leafy matter over the next month.
Dirty white webs form in limb crotches beginning in late March when wild cherry leaves are developing. Larvae leave the web on warm sunny days to consume leaves of ornamental crabapple, peach and cherry. They remain in the web during cloudy or rainy weather.
Large landscape trees are damaged temporarily, and new foliage grows back rapidly. However, newly planted or young trees may lose most of their 1-2 year old foliage and have no reserves to grow new shoots.
In March and April, many different insecticides are labeled including horticultural oil, Sevin (Carbaryl), Bt (Dipel), Orthene, Malathion, and insecticidal soap. Always read the pesticide label for all precautions. For example, the label on Orthene states “may cause foliar injury to flowering crabapples”.