This year is one of the worst tent caterpillar years I can recall. Though they do tend to run in cycles and its possible that I missed other major years in the past because I was not paying as close attention to um. They are all over my appletrees and of course all the big nests are way way out of reach. Is anyone else around the PNW (or elsewhere) experiencing this scourge about now? Any effective ways of dealing with it? Anyone have any insight on the live cycle of this pest? It's pouring rain and it was hailing near marble sized ice cubes earlier but I was messing around with those silk cocoons and they seem mighty tough so I'm not to convinced the deluge will help to discourage them.
God, these guys are going insane. My meager efforts where no where near enough to take care of all of them and i am shocked how rapidly they devour everything. The two apple trees they have made their primary nests in are completely defoliated and are very near mummified. Since I couldn't defeat them I've been observing them. They lay down tracks of silk on their heavily used paths back to the nets. Both trees are virtually covered in silk. They are now covering nearly every surface imaginable around here. They are chowing the strawberries. This is my line in the sand. I don't care if I have to pick every last strawberry clean of um twice a day. They aren't getting my damn strawberries.
I jam a stick into the tent then twist the stick. It rolls the tent up like cotton candy and with it, most of the caterpillars. Just step on the end of the stick and squish the thing up. Poke-n-twist-n-stomp-n-scrape.
I'll have to keep that stick method in mind for low lying tents. Unfortunately most of the tents are a good 30, 40, even 70 feet off the ground. Ravenous buggers. Way more active when its warm. It seems like the 60 degree mark is where they start getting up and really moving. Which would explain why this year has been so horrendous. I've staked out three of my dozen or so patches of strawberries and have managed to keep those three looking good. They're unrelenting. I have found that the best time to go a-smashing is in the evening. They all congregate together on stones, and plastic tubs, anywhere they can soak up heat. The gloved fist of squish rains down from above to wreck they're day.
I am concerned about my trees. The two elder apples have been completely stripped. Not a leaf on them. A pity, as the bloom on them was very good this year (I've been working on them) and it seemed like I was going to get a good set of apples. Observing other plants, particularly corn, has cemented in my mind just how important transpiration is. The lack of leaves, coupled with the mummified limbs has me worrying that my trees are going to steam in the sun. I am wondering if perhaps some major pruning is in order. I don't want to do more harm than good though
I live in the PNW and I haven't seen any tent caterpillars yet. Seems pretty early to be seeing them around here.
I don't have any miracle cures but later in the summer I have seen paper wasps (or maybe yellowjackets, I don't remember) capturing the caterpillars and flying off with them. I even took some video. In order for that to happen I noticed that there had to be a breach in the tent which allowed the wasps to get to the caterpillars. So if you have wasps around, you might try using a long pole to poke a hole in or otherwise destroy the tents. But for this year it sounds like you'll just have to wait them out since they are so bad/high. For the future you might look into what makes wasps happy and provide those things for them. Ditto for whatever other predators might exist.
So I'm trying to think of the upshot of having a bunch of defoliated trees going into what seems like is going to be a scorcher of a summer.
That 'Bug poop rain" comment I listed above from wikipedia is totally accurate. Walking around under dense canopies it sounds like it's raining, and there is an amazing amount of little dark pellets all over the place everywhere. I figure that's got to be a pretty decent fertilizer. An entire trees worth of leaves reduced to little pellets which will dissolve with the first rain. That's all I got. Tent Caterpillars still suck.
I have one huge bug zapper. They craw up the t-post on my fence then craw out to the hot wire (with the rear end still on the T-post) and get fried. They must have a lot of water in them. They seem to do a lot less damage than before I had the fence.
Time is mother nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once. And this is a tiny ad:
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