Every spring through many parts of the United States, tent caterpillars emerge from their protective nests and begin to feed. During boom years, these caterpillars can coat the ground below infested trees and strip their leaves bare, causing irreparable damage to any plants they wander into. You will need to take pest control measures to save your garden, but what can you do when there are thousands of them in your yard alone? These are the four best ways to control the tent caterpillar population on your property.
Removing Nests By Hand
Early in the season, just after they hatch, tent caterpillars hide in the web-like nests from which they derive their name. These are typically found in the branches of trees or bushes and resemble thick spiderwebs or cotton candy. While the caterpillars are still young, you can physically remove or destroy these nests to decrease population levels later on. If you miss a few nests or only notice the problem after the caterpillars have scattered, more advanced methods will need to be employed.
Creating Physical Barriers
Tent caterpillars sometimes fall out of their trees, but most of them reach the ground below by marching down the trunk. You can halt their progress by wrapping barriers and obstructions around the trunk of the tree, such as sticky rolls of tape that capture and hold them in place. This method alone will probably not be enough to eliminate your infestation, but it is another line of defense when you are faced with overwhelming numbers.
Applying Bacillus Thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis is a type of bacteria that specifically targets butterflies, moths and similar insects, including tent caterpillars. When a caterpillar eats a leaf sprayed with this bacteria, it stops eating soon afterward as its digestive system is destroyed over the course of a few days. This bacteria is a preferred treatment method because it does not affect other insects, plants or animals, making it safe for everything but the caterpillars in question.
Relying on a Pest Control Service
If these efforts still can't curb your tent caterpillar problem, or if you don't have the time to battle them on your own, you may be better off calling your local pest control service, like Suffolk Pest Control, to handle them for you. Hiring an expert is the fastest and safest way to obtain comprehensive control of your resident caterpillar infestation, particularly if chemical treatments are needed. Soon enough, between your pest control efforts and natural biology, the remaining caterpillars will transform into moths and leave your garden both in peace and intact.