Camping at May Dreams Gardens

I must warn you that this post is not about flowers, like this zinnia growing in my vegetable garden.

It's not about vegetables and what I harvested today and how many bags of zucchini I'll be hauling in to work tomorrow. (You have to be sick of that topic by now!)

It's also not about the weather even though it would be tempting to complain about how hot it is, but it's hot everywhere right now.

It's about tent caterpillars. (Please stay! I took pictures!)

Please be warned at this point that I have indeed taken pictures of some tent caterpillars that I found in my Sweet Gum tree this evening. If you are squeamish about little tiny caterpillars that look like little tiny worms, you might want to turn away as you cursor down to leave a comment (if you are so inclined to comment). There are just two pictures so if you scroll down really fast, you can avoid them.

So, duly warned... let's continue.

I'm was working a bit in the vegetable garden this evening, because even in this heat those vegetables just won't wait to be harvested, when I turned around and saw that some tent caterpillars had set up camp in my Sweet Gum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua). Sigh. I hate when they do that. They tried it a few years ago in another tree in my backyard.

Caution... close up coming. This is the part where you see the thousands of caterpillars in the "camp".

I don't know if these are Eastern tent caterpillars or forest tent caterpillars or some other kind of tent caterpillar. It really doesn't matter as the method of dealing with them is the same.
It was kind of creepy when I got up close to these caterpillars to see them all start to wiggle like crazy. Did they see me? Or did they see those clippers in my hands and sense what was coming next?

Because what came next was me cutting these out of the tree. That's the only way I know how to deal with these tent caterpillars. It wasn't a big tent, so it didn't take long to cut it out, drop it in a trash bag and put it out in the trash. Fortunately, the weekly trash pick is tomorrow.

You can hardly tell what was here before.When you find tent caterpillars, you should remove them immediately as that tent will only get bigger each day. It doesn't matter how hot it is or how late in the day it is, you've just got to put on some gloves, get your clippers and cut them out of the tree.

After I destroyed this tent, I checked all my other trees to see if there were any others, and luckily, this was the only "camp".

If you have some trees in your yard, and surely you do, you might want to go out, maybe late in the day when it is "cooler", and make sure you don't have any tent caterpillars camping in one of your trees. If you don't see any that's great; if you do, cut 'em out.


  1. No tent caterpillars yet, but I have seen quit a few bagworms. I think I hate them worse because sometimes they can be hard to find, and they do a lot of damage.

  2. So you pulled me in with that beautiful zinnia to then show me pics of tent worms? Well, it worked. ;-)

    I really dislike tent worms, but I'm not afraid of them. I used to cut them out of my trees too, but now my trees have grown too tall to reach them. This year the affected trees were all in the back garden, where I was the only one bothered by their ugliness, so I just left them there. What do you do when the tent worms strike high in a tree?

  3. Must be worm night. I guess I should have posted a warning for the squeemish too. My neighbor in Tuscaloosa used to burn the tent caterpillars in his trees. I wouldn't recommend his method though because his trees looked pretty bad afterward. I guess he'd rather burn the tree than let the worms get it.

  4. Those are gross looking! I see them in my neighbors apple trees, but they don't seem to do anything about them.

  5. OK. I'll admit it. I'm ignorant. If you leave them be, do they turn into anything? Or just stay as a worm that eats your tree?

  6. So, _that's_ tent caterpillars! I saw them when I visited the US a few years ago. We have a common caterpillar here in Sweden that every now and then (years appart) has aboom and floods their favourite trees. The trees are completely spun over, and all leaves removed. Looks horrible - be glad I lost the link to the site with detailed pictures (including the picture of an overspun bicycle - those caterpillars are not intelligent).

    The trees actually survives the attacs and sets new leaves when the caterpillars are gone. As I said this happens years appart, if it happened every year things may have been different.

  7. Boy am I glad that we don't have tent caterpillars here. How very revolting they look. In the close up they look like a bunch of maggots, not my favorite kind of wildlife. ;-)

    They must be very destructive in your garden once they're out of their tent as there are so many of them. They could probably chomp their way into the Olympic team if chomping was an olympic sport. :-D

  8. `ugh!!! I hate worms, any kind. especially before breakfast.

  9. Yuk. I'm glad we don't see any of those here (yet, anyhow). I remember a neighbour of my parents having a yard infested with them. I read a website saying you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) on these without harming beneficial insects. Or, just remove them like you did or roll the web onto a broom stick and then stomp on them. Still sounds revolting...

  10. Those nasty little critters, I burn them up but have not seen any this year, yet anyway :).

  11. You've related what must have been a rather unpleasant task ( so gross looking!) rather entertaining!

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  13. I don't think those are Eastern Tent Caterpillars. I only say that because I photographed ETC's a lot this spring and studied them extensively so that I could write an article on them. In a way (when not in the garden) they are cool caterpillars as their photo sensitivity is incredible and their life is actually quite fascinating.

    I wouldn't want to remove them though. Ugh.

  14. We clip off any we can reach, Carol and do they love pecan trees! But as Pam/Digging has found, it's pretty hard to get them when they're 30 feet in the air. [We can reach up to about 15 feet with the pole pruner.]

    I've heard that people with more space and distant neighbors shoot arrows through the bags to pierce them - once broken the birds and wasps can get inside the bag.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Vonlafin... I also hate the bag worms, and have lost a few shrubs due to bagworms!

    Pam/Digging... Yes, we gardeners can't resist a pretty flower, can we? My trees aren't too tall so I could reach most tent caterpillars with a good pole pruner. If they are higher than that, I'd let them go, or read Annie's comment for an idea.

    Robin's Nesting Place... I thought about torching them, but it is so dry, the whole tree would have caught fire!

    Connie... maybe your neighbors believe in just letting nature be? Or are lazy?

    Sister with the Homestead... if you leave them be, they turn into moths. Don't tell that I killed them!

    Rosengeranium... I am glad you can't find the picture. That would be right out of the twilight zone!

    Yolanda Elizabet... As far as I know, they stay in the tent to feed, then pupate there and emerge as adult moths in the spring.

    Eleanor... you were warned!

    Gardenista... the broom handle trick would work if you didn't want to cut out any branches.

    Iowa Gardening Woman... Hopefully you won't see any this year.

    Nicole... thanks for the comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    Me... I don't think they are Eastern tent caterpillars, either. Too small and too light colored...

    Annie in Austin... that's a great idea on how to reach the higher tents, and the birds get the benefit.

    Thanks all for the comments!

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  16. I hate tent caterpillars. They're in my pecan and persimmon trees. I agree it's best to cut them out as early as you can before the tents get too big. I have a long pole pruner for that but there are always some I can't get. I just wreck the tent as much as possible and hope my many paper wasps get in there and finish them off. That's their job after all. I'm tired of watching the paper wasps just loaf under my eaves.

  17. Carol,

    I've removed small tents that I can reach - they will damage trees. But what I do with the tent is different. I place it near the feeders and watch the birds have a delightful meal! Within a few hours I trash the tent.

  18. We had those last year, in a Maple tree. So ugly, so gross, and I have a picture almost identical to the one you posted. That wiggly web of worms is enough to make anyone break out in goose bumps.

    I haven't seen any yet this year.

  19. Carol - Search my yard immediately! That is one of the yuckiest things I've seen for a long time (since your cicada killer picture!) - Your neighbor

  20. MSS...I'm also tired of paper wasps. They are everywhere.

    Mary... What a great idea, I'm going to do that next time!

    Kylee... I agree, they are ugly and gross. I'm just glad I'm not afraid of them or too squeamish to cut them out.

    JT... I'm way ahead of you and already check the trees in the yards around my house. I don't want anyone to have these!

    Thanks all for the comments,
    Carol at May Dreams Gardens


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