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Tent Caterpillars


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!


About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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By margaret Tx (Guest Post)
April 8, 20080 found this helpful

Here in Piney Woods of East Tx, we get worms and we call them web worms. What I do is get a bunch of paper wrap it around a long stick and burn the webs. Be careful have a hose close by then get some stockings with moth balls in them and throw them up into the tree branche.


Keep doing it and it will do the trick. I don't have any now, but I keep a watch out and as soon as I see any, I will do it again. Good luck.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 8, 20080 found this helpful

I have in the past cut of the branch that has the tent on it and burned it. Usually you will get most of the caterpillars if they are still in larvae stage and in the tents.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 8, 20080 found this helpful

In the spring, my dad always poured kerosine on them and burned them when they were still in the tents as eggs and larvae.

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By Pat (Guest Post)
April 10, 20080 found this helpful

I have had the same problem several times. The best method I have used is to buy a can of Hornet spray that will spray a longer distance than other sprays. I aim the nozzle as close to the middle of the web as I can and spray it real good.


It worked good for me. Those nasty things will get in you flower bed and strip the leaves off roses and other flowers. I found the spray at Wal Mart and Lowes.

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By KBlueyes (Guest Post)
April 12, 20080 found this helpful

We had the same problem last summer. The things lived in a neighbor's tree whose branches overhung our yard. I do know that insecticides work in the trees, but be very careful that you don't get insecticide on you.
I also went up myself and cut the branches of the tree that were over my yard and used them for firewood. Check your laws governing that one - I filed a complaint with the city, as that property was filthy.

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By Gina (Guest Post)
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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By Marna (Guest Post)
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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By (Guest Post)
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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April 19, 20160 found this helpful

Dawn dish liquid kills them fast. Put some in the nest and waalaa. What does survive drops to the group and birds get them.

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