Getting Rid of Tent Caterpillars

Caterpillars can be very destructive to your trees and garden. Here are tips to preventing this pest. This is a guide about getting rid of tent caterpillars.

May 29, 2008 Flag
1 found this helpful


My crab apple tree has caterpillars in silk bags in the crotches of limbs. How do I rid the tree of these and prevent further issues?

Note: I sprayed Sevin on the trunk from the base to 2 ft high on 17 March, on 19 Mar I noticed the first silk bags forming. Most of the silk bags are 12-25 ft high.

Hardiness Zone: 7a

Scott from Hollywood, MD



Eastern Tent caterpillar larvae feed on the leaves of most deciduous trees and shrubs, but especially crab apples, aspens and wild cherry trees. In the past few years, caterpillar numbers have been high in your area. Thankfully, these population explosions are cyclical, and native parasites will eventually bring numbers back under control.


One idea for getting rid of the sacks high up in your tree is to wind them onto a broomstick with nails projecting from it. This is best done in the morning when the caterpillars are inside their tents. Where you can reach, you can also prune and burn the infested branches. Another, (microbial) method of control is spraying Bacillus thuringiensis var.kurstaki, also known as (BTK). This is a bacterial insecticide that caterpillars ingest as they feed. It poisons them over the course of a few days and they drop to the ground. BTK should be applied while caterpillar larvae are still small and easy to control. It is applied in the evening or early morning when the caterpillars are in the nests.

One way to prevent future infestations is by attracting native parasitic flies and wasps. This can be done by growing small, flowering herbs like Queen Anne's lace, catnip, and wildflowers around your garden and near the base of your tree.


Here's a great link for more information specific to your area.

Good luck!


May 29, 20080 found this helpful

Hi, when I lived in the country years back, we had these in our hickory trees. We also used Dawn dishwasher liquid 1/2 cup in 1 gallon of water plus 2 tablespoons of tabasco sauce and sprayed it up in the trees. Worked like a charm. I also used this on my vegetable garden as I do not use insecticides and it worked wonderful.

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June 1, 20080 found this helpful

I always use a liquid soap solution for these webby worms! Also a good solution to the crane fly larvae. We used the shaklee basic h but any good soap works. great also for the no see-ums around lights in campers just sponge it on and watch them fall! Hope it helps you! Cheaper than insecticides, and better for you to be around!

je in Oregon

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June 3, 20080 found this helpful

If you or your neighbor(s) have chickens, take them down with a broom as suggested earlier, drop them in the hen coop. They'll go absolutely nuts gorging on them and that will be that.

Marna (CT)

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June 8, 20080 found this helpful

I didn't read all of the other posts you received but I just got our community paper today. There is an article in there about the caterpillars. Its says orioles love these worms.

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Anonymous Flag
April 19, 20160 found this helpful

May 6, 2004 Flag
0 found this helpful

I am in Washington state and there are caterpillars everywhere right now. They are orange and black and about an inch long. You can see their nests all over my trees and when you look closely at the nests there are between 10 to hundreds of caterpillars in each one. These things are going to devour everything. Anyone know how to get rid of them? I believe these are called tent caterpillars.

Joy in WA

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June 14, 20040 found this helpful
Best Answer

I'm not really sure of a fool proof method, but there are sprays you can get. They are tent caterpillars. They usually affect fruit trees, especially cherry and a few years ago Seattle did some heavy spraying trying to get rid of them. It helped for a couple years, but now they are back in full force. I had them in my apple tree at the beginning of spring, a little spray right on the nest and they died.

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June 27, 20040 found this helpful
Best Answer

Try diazanon or malathion, fixes that problem.

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May 7, 20040 found this helpful

About those Caterpillers,,,We had this problem a few years back and I sprayed the nests with Vinegar. This killed the little ones and it was not un safe for the trees. Use it full strength in a spray bottle. I hope this works for you.

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May 28, 20040 found this helpful

i seem to have sort of the same problem..but the tree is not in my belongs to the nieghbor but the caterpillars are all over my yard...anyone know what i should do about this?

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June 8, 20050 found this helpful

June 14, 2005 Flag
1 found this helpful

We live in southern Ontario, Canada, and tent caterpillars are a big problem. We always had them on our few fruit trees until I read somewhere of a cheap way to discourage them.

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November 10, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

One way to get rid of these caterpillars is to simply crush them. This method is outlined in this video. He's doing it with gloves on, which would be a little gross.

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June 15, 2006 Flag
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Q: I have a weeping cherry tree, however this year it did not flower as much as last year. I found a large white cotton nest in the tree. I think it's caterpillars. How do I get rid of them?

Hardiness Zone: 6a

Nancy from Margate, NJ

A: Nancy,

The can easily dislodge the caterpillar tent from the tree. Blast it off with a garden hose or use a broom to knock it down. Once the nest falls to the ground how you dispose of it is up to you. The caterpillars will have a hard time returning to the tree and are more likely to succumb to the voracious appetites of nearby birds then make it back to safety. The best time to destroy the tent is right around dawn or dusk. These are the times the caterpillars return to the tents after they finish feeding. If you prefer not to knock it down, you can also use an organic control called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This can be expensive and difficult to apply and is probably only economical for multiple nests in multiple trees.

To further protect your tree from migrating caterpillars, construct a barrier band around the trunk made of duct tape, tin foil or tar paper and coat it generously with a greasy substance like Vaseline. Don't apply the grease directly to the tree bark. The band should be in the shade or you may risk killing the bark and cambium that is underneath. Check the barrier daily and add more grease if necessary. Remove it as soon as the caterpillar cycle appears over (you see individual cocoons being formed in other people's trees).

Good Luck!

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May 11, 20060 found this helpful

That sounds like bag worm.

The best and easiest way is to simply put a match,candle up to it and set it on fire. it sounds crazy bur it works and doesn't hurt the tree!! The "bag" catches on fire and then goes out as soon as the "bag" is gone. You can have a hose nearby if you want to be extra careful.

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May 12, 20060 found this helpful

It sounds like web worm. Just take a broom or something and pull it out of the tree. The tree should be fine. That is what they taught us at Clemson. Good Luck...

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