Warmer weather brings out the bugs. Insect eggs hatch out larvae that are eating machines. Some insects are more noticeable than others, either for the amount they eat or they way they bother us. “Tent caterpillar” and “army-worm” are two descriptions of insect larvae that can be confusing and also misunderstood. Eastern Tent Caterpillars cause some stir in the late spring due to their very obvious “tents” that they create in between tree arms (really it’s the armpit or crotch). Wild cherry trees are one of their favorite camp sites, and these trees are often on road sides. Many tend to be alarmed by the sheer number of caterpillars that occupy each tent and the number of tents per tree or shrub. The caterpillars do eat a great deal of foliage, however the tree or shrub generally survives, no problem. Plus, they provide a very easy-to-access buffet for many birds.
Another caterpillar also emerging about this time is the Forest Tent Caterpillar. They are often called “army-worms,” but they aren’t worms (caterpillars have legs and eyes and other features that true worms lack) and they don’t put up tents like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Their names don’t make much sense, do they? Maybe they added “tent” because of their in-tents nature of destruction! Too much with the tent joke? The photo above shows just how to identify each of the common late-spring caterpillars. The Eastern is probably the easiest to spot from a distance because of their tent structures. If you see the tents, think of the birds before torching this mostly harmless camp site!
Forest Tent Caterpillar outbreaks usually last 3-5 years and are quite destructive. They prefer aspen, but will also eat maple leaves. Pest specialists are expecting an increase in the population of Forest Tent Caterpillar. If you see damage to your trees but are unsure of the cause, contact Larry Czelusta, Missaukee County Forester, to help identify and brainstorm solutions. Call 839.7193 or email larry.czelusta