Don’t panic! It’s tent caterpillar season

May 08, 2014
Photo by: Paul Archipley Tent caterpillars squirm and wriggle en route to their destiny, metamophosizing into moths. The whole process takes about 10 weeks.

For the next few weeks, the eggs of Western tent caterpillars will be hatching, and the larvae will be foraging on the leaves of our native trees and shrubs such as alder, apple, ash, birch, cherry and wild roses.

The caterpillars secrete silk to create a web-like structure that we call a tent, suspended from the branches and twigs of the host plant.

After eight weeks of growth, the caterpillars form cocoons and complete their metamorphosis into adult moths in another 2 weeks.

The adult moths begin the life cycle again by laying eggs in late spring and early summer.

Tent caterpillars are native insects that are naturally controlled by ecological factors such as diseases, parasites, birds, the scarcity of food, and weather conditions.

These natural enemies soon bring tent caterpillars under control in a 3-5 year cycle.

As damaging and unsightly as tent caterpillars may appear, trees and shrubs that are in good health will survive the activity and in 4 to 6 weeks the damaged plant will rejuvenate and put on new leaves.

The public is asked to tolerate these insects because they are part of the natural ecological process for our area.

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