Tent worms, also known as tent caterpillars, are larvae of moths and butterflies. Tent worm larvae range between 2 to 2 1/2 inches in length and have several characteristics that make them stand out from other insects.
They have a soft, black, fleshy body, a white stripe on the back, yellow and brown lines on the sides, and blue oval spots on both sides. The long hairs are used for protection and help prevent water loss during the larval stage. They also have small hooks on their feet that help them create silk cases on trees and plants and are usually found in the springtime when the weather starts to warm up.
Tent worms are considered to be pests when they wander around properties and homes looking for food. The larvae will eat leaves from over 400 different plant species, mainly ash, willow, or maple trees, though they can also be found on oak trees and other plants. They can cause damage if left unchecked, such as slowing the tree's growth or making it less resistant to disease and parasites, but nothing permanent. Tent worm droppings, however, are acidic, and if left for too long, can cause damage to cars, outdoor furniture, and homes.
Knowing the lifecycle of the tent worm is half the battle won. Female moths lay their eggs on tree trunks and branches in early spring. The egg masses remain throughout the summer, fall, and winter months. Larvae hatch the following spring and leave the nests to feed on the leaves, returning after feeding. Once the larvae eat enough and mature, they leave the nest to complete their life cycle. During this time is when they might find a way to your home. There is only one generation of tent worms each year.
Identifying Tent Worm Nests
Tent worms form webs usually found on the branches near the trunk of trees. They create a web between two to four inches off the ground to protect themselves from rain and predators. As spring turns into summer, several hundred larvae can make up a colony. The tent worms make the nest, which is white and silky, bigger to accommodate its growing size. Thus, the size of the tent depends on the size of the colony.
Tips On How To Prevent Tent Worms in New Braunfels, TX
If you're worried about some larvae crawling their way into your home or business during the spring season (which typically begins in May), there are many things you can do to prevent that from happening. Many of the following preventative measures can be easily carried out but leave the larger infestations for the experts:
- Cut back any brush or overgrown vegetation around your home.
- Pick the egg cases by hand in the early morning or evening.
- Regular pruning of trees gets rid of eggs before they can hatch.
- Drop small infestation nests into soapy water.
- Destroy webs with a stick or with high-pressure water spray.
- Introduce birds by placing bird feeders close by.
- Larger infestations will require insecticides. Apply these in the early morning and evening when they are in the nest.
- Apply insect glue to the trunk of the tree to trap the worms.
- Using fire to kill tent worms is not recommended and causes more harm to the tree.
Despite tent worms being relatively harmless and just an eyesore, if left unchecked, these creepy crawlers will soon make a home for themselves and attract other insects such as aphids and flies that feed off the larvae.
Don't wait for a full-blown infestation; contact the New Braunfels pest control professionals, Pinnacle Pest Defense, for more advice or assistance in dealing with the elimination of tent worms.