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How to treat tent caterpillars

Several larvae species hold the distinction of being collectively referred to as tent caterpillars; the pests are the caterpillar larvae form of the eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum), fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea), forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) and the western tent caterpillar (Malacosoma californicum). The pests' voracious feeding poses a danger to deciduous trees and shrubs. The insects build visible silken nests upon the host. All species require similar control measures to successfully treat an infestation. Weak trees can easily perish from the severe defoliation caused by the caterpillars.

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  1. Prune away tent caterpillar nests using pruning shears or loppers. Hand remove any eggs or live caterpillars that continue to cling to the area where the nest was located.

  2. Place the nests, eggs and caterpillars into a plastic garbage bag. Consider crushing the insects in the bag to successfully kill them or simply seal the bag and dispose of the insects.

  3. Spray webs located high in a tree canopy with a powerful spray of water. Focus the burst of water directly on the nest to knock the webbing, eggs and caterpillars from the tree. Crush any live caterpillars that fall to the ground.

  4. Spray individual tent caterpillar nests using Bacillus thuringiensis. Apply the substance when the tent caterpillars remain small for the most effect. Follow the directions on the label for application instructions.

  5. Tip

    Promptly remove tent caterpillar nests in the spring when they first become visible.


    To kill tent caterpillars,use chemical insecticides with caution because insecticides will also kill beneficial insects. Injectable insecticides that are applied to the tree's trunk may cause damage to the tree, according to the Texas A&M University's website.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning loppers
  • Plastic garbage bag
  • Hose
  • Bacillus thuringiensis spray

About the Author

Based in Oregon, Kimberly Sharpe has been a writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online publications. Her writing has a strong focus on home improvement, gardening, parenting, pets and travel. She has traveled extensively to such places as India and Sri Lanka to widen and enhance her writing and knowledge base.

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