It’s spring again in Canada, and it looks like tent caterpillars have made their return. Before you know it, your trees become bare and look as if they died. Most trees can handle this kind of stress. It might even prevent fruit trees from producing. It could even cause a young tree to die. You do not need to panic and go into a burning or chopping frenzy. Here are some strategic ways you can get rid of these little pests.
Removing the nests from the trees
Tent caterpillar nests are easy to spot in the fall and winter months when the trees are bare. You can scrape or prune them off and throw them into the garbage. You will want to do this when the caterpillars are in the nest. Chokecherry, pin cherry, saskatoon, currant, and willow trees are favourites for this little creature. Remember to check them each year.
Spraying the nests with insecticide
Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) is the top choice for killing tent caterpillars. Spray the trees when the larvae are 1-2 centimetres long. The bacteria in Btk will not affect people, animals, birds nor many other types of insects. Chemical insecticides also work but could kill helpful insects. Make sure that it isn’t going to rain within the next day before spraying.
Get the birds on your side
Many birds and animals eat tent caterpillars. While you might not want to attract bears, mice or skunks, bringing in the birds is not a bad idea. Cuckoos, orioles, jays, chickadees and nuthatches eat tent caterpillars. Having bird baths and bird feeders could help you reduce the caterpillar population.
Conclusion: A strategy to match the occasion
The tent caterpillar is a pesky insect when it gets into your yard and house. It does not take much to rid yourself of them most years. Encouraging predators to visit and a routine fall inspection is usually enough. You may need to use an insecticide during outburst years. (Outbursts typically last two to three years and only happen every decade or so.) You can have your property looking the way you like it with minimal effort.